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Events of Today


Courtesy: ‘History Of Srirangam Temple’ By Sri V.N.Hari Rao

Chapter I
N The study of the history of the Srirangam temple has been rendered
possible mainly by the remarkable advance of epigraphy in South India. An
account based wholly on glorifying Mahatmyas and historically useless myths
and legends is bound to be incomplete, indefinite and unreal. Most of the
inscriptions in the Srirangam temple have been reported on and some of them
edited in the publications of the Department of Epigraphy. Though there are
a few Pallava inscriptions in the Trichinopoly cave and in Tiruvellarai and
Uyyakondan Tirumalai near Srirangam the Srirangam temple itself contains no
Pallava inscriptions. The earliest inscriptions are the Cola inscriptions of the
10th century A.D. and of these the first is dated in the 17th year of
Parantaka I (907 - 953 A.D.) These are followed by the inscriptions of the
Pandyas of the Second Empire. They record the numerous and rich
benefactions made to the temple by these kings and are often setout in such
great detail that they confirm in a large measure the account in the
Vaisnava chronicles of the bountiful resources of the temple that lay at the
back of the ceremonious conduct of worship and festivals for the God

The state of prosperity enjoyed by the Srirangam temple under the

patronage of benevolentHindu monarchs received a rude shock when the
Mohammedans over-ran Ma’bar in the first half of the 14th century. The
temple lost its landed property and became poor and destitute. It was
restored with the revival of Hindu political power in South India under the
leadership of Vijayanagar. The inscriptions, in the Srirangam temple, of the
early Vijayanagar chieftains paint a picture of a conscious effort on their
part to resuscitate the shrine as the celebrated centre of Hinduism that it
had been. A large number of copper-plate grants begin to appear in the
period of the later Vijayanagar kings and that of the Nayaks of Madurai.
Most of these record the grant of villages to the wardens of the Srirangam
temple. A few inscriptions of the mid-Vijayanagar period give us important
and useful details about the governors of the Trichinopoly region and their
dealings with the Srirangam temple. By the beginning of the 18th century
inscriptions fell into obsolescence and for the subsequent periods we depend
mainly upon contemporary writings.

The inscriptions help to furnish the appropriate political

background to the Vaisnava tradition, enshrined in the Guruparamparai, which
gives a continuous account of the succession of pontiffs at Srirangam. But
the Guruparamparai belongs purely to the realm of hagiography and is not of
much help to the historian. However, the correlation of political and religious
data in inscriptions is not as complete as one might wish. Direct references,
in the host of inscriptions, on the walls, pillars and plinths of the Srirangam
temple, to the affairs and activities of the Vaisnava movement at Srirangam
can be counted on one’s fingers’ ends. It is surprising that Ramanuja, who
according to the authentic tradition of the Arayirappadi Guruparamparai,
was for long (more than sixty years according to the Koil-Olugu) the manager
of the affairs of the Srirangam temple, both spiritual and temporal, is not
mentioned as such in any of its inscriptions. This applies also to his
immediate predecessors and successors. Thus to all appearances we possess
two sets of material for the reconstruction of the history of Srirangam
temple, viz., the hagiologies and the inscriptions, which have nothing in
common between them. But actually the position is not to be despaired of.
The inscriptions of the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries contain important
references, though indirect and also few and far between, to the affairs
and organisation of the Srirangam temple. An inscription of Kulottunga I
dated 10881 (62 of 1892; Sii. III.70.) and another of Maravarman
Sundara Pandya I dated 12252 (53 of 1892; SII.IV.500.) contain such
references, casual in themselves and hence quite reliable. These references,
for instance go to confirm the traditional account of Ramanuja’s activities in
Srirangam. There are also a few inscriptions, of the same period, which
mention Srirangam, Ramanuja and a few of his immediate disciples like Embar
and Accan.3 (MAR.1913. p.36; 1908. p.9.) With the help of these and a
few other inscriptions it is possible to check and verify the traditional
account to some extent.

Generally speaking inscriptions in South India are seldom

purely historical in character; they register gifts and endowments of a public
or private nature, to temples, mathas and Brahmins. As such they are of
immense value to the history of any temple. A list of inscriptions of the
Srirangam temple, arranged chronologically, presents a succinct sketch of
the history of the property of the temple, in lands, gardens, jewels of gold
and diamonds, lamps, vessels and other accoutrement for worship and finally
in gold coins. In the days of the flourishing Hindu Rajas the temple received
very frequently rich presents not only from the local chiefs but also from
their neighbours, who came down for the purpose of war or peace. The list
of benefactors included important officers of the army, merchant-princes
and private individuals. Whenever the peace of the country was violently
disturbed the temple lost its all. When peace was restored it received fresh
gifts and endowments. On the establishment of the British Raj, however, it
ceased to be a landlord and became, like so many petty princes and Nawabs,
a pensioner of the government.

The major South Indian temple was the result of a gradual process of
accretion; the number of sub-shrines containing the images of minor deities
and sublimated devotees clustering around the main shrine were raised in
different periods by beneficent princes. The only source for a proper study
of the structural growth of the Srirangam temple is epigraphical. Here again
a chronological list of the inscriptions in the temple furnishes a clear sketch
of the physical growth of the temple. From a study of such a list it can be
seen that a majority of the minor shrines were constructed in the 13th
century, when the region round Srirangam was under the occupation of the
Hoysalas and after them the Pandyas of the Second Empire. It is also known
that some of the structures that had suffered damage during the Muslim
occupation were repaired or reconstructed subsequently by the chieftains of
Vijayanagar. The Koil-Olugu, which gives a detailed account of the several
structures with the names of their builders and Saka dates, has, it is
found, drawn its information largely from inscriptions.

Over and above these, the inscriptions furnish various minor details
useful for the history of the temple. For example a couple of inscriptions in
Srirangam supply the rare and interesting information about the transfer of
the management of certain shrines (the Dasavatara shrine and the
Tirumangai Alvar Sannidhi) to new arcakas and the duties they were
expected to perform in respect of their offices4. (100 and 102 of 1936-
37) Again two inscriptions on the jambs of the Vellai gopuram in the temple
tell us an episode of topical interest. They give us details of the self-
immolation of a few Jiyas and Ekangis of the temple, as a protest against
insufficient allowances made by the local governor for the conduct of puja.5
(87 of 1936-37; pt.II, para 78) From the inscriptions we know that
munificent Hindu kings founded in their names festivals that continue to this
day, and established agraharas or Brahmin-habitations going by the name of
Caturvedimangalams. Such are the Bhupati Udayar festival, called after
Bhupati Udayar, a chieftain of Vijayanagar of the First Dynasty and
Ravivarman-caturvedi-mangalam, called after the famous Ravivarman

The Early Tamil literature and the Prabandas of the Alvars

One of the Aham odes refers to Arangam and the Panguni festival on
the banks of an adjacent river.6 (Aham 137) It is likely that this has
reference to one of the important festivals of the Srirangam temple. Aham
400 or the Ahananuru is one of the oldest anothologies included in the
classical Tamil literature, better known as the Sangam works. By common
consent this group is assigned to the same age in which Ptolemy and the
anonymous author of the Periplus wrote about South India, i.e., the first
two or three centuries of the Christian era.7 (This period is sometimes
extended so as to include the 5th century also) The Silappadikaram which is
also included in this group, refers more definitely to the Srirangam temple.

Roughly speaking the age of the Sangam literature is succeeded by the

age of the historical Pallavas of Kanchi. Foe a history of the temple of this
period the Prabandas of the Vaisnava mystics, going by the name of the
Alvars, call for special notice. All the Alvars did not belong to the same age.
A few were earlier and the rest later. The early Alvars are variously
assigned to the 2nd century and the 5th century A.D. It has to be said
that the Prabandas of the later Alvars furnish much interesting information
about the state of the Srirangam temple 1,200 years ago. Though the
poems contain very often idealized pictures yet they give some unfailing
details about worship in the temple and the devotees of the god. The lives
of the Alvars, as they are preserved in the hagiologies, again confirm these
references and furnish fresh details, though these have to be utilised with
great caution.

The legendary Stalamahatmya

People have generally loved to ascribe a hoary antiquity and invent

sacred and edifying legends to glorify the sanctity of their sacred shrines.
This has led to the rise of a whole mass of literature going by the name of
‘Stala Mahatmyas’ and ‘Stala Puranas’, mostly of recent origin. Though of
little value because they bear no relation to the historical dates or events
still they do not lack a quaint interest for the student of folk-lore and
popular tradition. The Sriranga Mahatmya, which gives such an account of
the Srirangam temple, is known in two varsions, viz., the ‘Satadyayi’ and the
‘Dasadyayi’, or the versions of ‘hundred chapters’ and ten chapters’, said to
form part respectively of the Garuda Purana and the Brahmanda Purana; and
surprisingly enough they are not to be traced in their originals. Such
apocryphal Mahatmyas are not histories, nor are they even chronicles; at
best they are local ……………. of foundation-legends cherished by the popular

The Koil-Olugu

Between legend and history stands the chronicle; and to this

intermediate class is to be assigned the Koil-Olugu. The word ‘olugu’ means a
record or a register, and ‘Koil’, in Vaisnava parlance, denotes Srirangam.
Genealogical accounts were, sometimes, called ‘Olugus’, e.g., the ‘Annan
Tirumaligai Olugu’, which is an account of the family of the Kandadaiyar of

The Koil-Olugu is stated to be the work of ‘Purvacaryas’,

i.e., the Acaryas of the past’, in other words it was not the work of a
single writer belonging to a particular period but a temple record written and
maintained by successive wardens of the temple or their accountants or
writers. Events are narrated, especially in the latter portions of the Olugu,
under specific dates, and a perusal of the entire book conveys the idea that
it was a diary kept up by successive generations, true to its name, ‘Olugu’.
On these grounds a categorical statement that the Koil-Olugu was a late
composition of about the 18th century cannot be taken as altogether
justified.8 (EI. XXIV. p. 91.) It is not improbable that an original and
early cadjan existed in the Srirangam temple before the latter suffered
during the Orissan and Muslim invasions of the medieval period. From the
fact that Udayavar or Ramanuja receives the most exhaustive treatment it
may be hazarded that the Olugu was commenced after his death. The
comparatively scrappy treatment of the earlier period strengthens this view.

The most instructive portion of the Koil-Olugu is that which treats

with the reforms of Udayavar in the temple, the foremost of them being a
thorough reorganization of the various groups of temple servants. The
administration of the temple was improved and purified in manyaja respect.
A five-fold division of the temple servants was expanded into a ten-fold
division and the duties of each group were specified. In a lengthy account
these duties are described elaborately and to the minutest detail in the
peculiar temple jargon. To a person intimately connected with the temple
ritual and custom this is undoubtedly the most interesting part of the entire

A perusal of the Koil-Olugu shows that the sequence of events

adopted is jumbled, e.g., the period of the Acaryas is dealt with after the
first Muslim attack on Srirangam. Certain events or names are repeated in a
different context; this was perhaps because an accountant recorded certain
past events in the diary without liquiring whether the same had been
recorded or not by a predecessor of his. The jumbled sequence might have
been due to the constant resuscitations of the original due to the vicissitudes
of history and the imperfections and shortcomings of scribes. It is also
possible that a scribe while making a copy made his own interpolations. The
Olugu maintains a fairly correct sequence of events while dealing with the
Vijayanagar period and after.

With its many imperfections in sequence, chronology and language9

(The language of the Olugu is supposed to be the familiar manipravala style
of the Vaisnava hagiologies, i.e., a mixture of Sanskrit and Tamil. There is
also an admixture of the jargon of the Vaisnava temple, a part of it being
peculiar to Srirangam. Many of the sentences are unmangeably long and deal
with a variety of details.) the Koil-Olugu is still a valuable source-book for a
history of the Srirangam temple. Mr.R.Sewell made a correct guess of the
worth of this chronicle when he said, “The priests of the (Srirangam) temple
have in their possession a document which ought to be of real value, the
mahatmyas of temples being almost invariably an absurd jumble of
mythological fables. This is a chronicle called the ‘Varagu’, which is said to
give a list of all the priests of the temple, with details of temple
management from the earliest times.”10 (Lists of Antiquities. 1 p.268; see
Introduction to Koil-Olugu in English, edited by the writer.

The Guruparamparai of Pinbalagiya Perumal Jiyar and the Divyasuricaritam

The Guruparamparai belongs to that type of chronicle known as

hagiology. It records the history of a religious movement by tracing the list
of its successive spiritual preceptors. Its usefulness for an attempt at
reconstructing the history of Vaisnavism in South India cannot be
exaggerated. To this type belong the Arayirappadi Guruparamparai of
Pinbalagiya Perumal Jiyar, the Guruparamparai of the third Barahmatantra
Swatantra Jiyar, the Divyasuricaritam and the Prapannamrtam of
Anantarya, the first two being Tamil (Manipravalam) works and the next two
Sanskrit. The Acaryasuktimuktavali by Namburi Kesavacarya, also called
Vaduga Nambi or Andhrapurna, is a similar hagiology in Telugu. Of these the
earliest is the Aryirappadi Guruparamparai whose author is, according to
well-known Vaisnava tradition, assigned to the first half of the 13th
century. So far as the lives of the Alvars are concerned much of the
chronicle is legendary in character. Yet the astronomical details of the
nativity of these Alvars as well as their original homes and their early
activities provide a starting point for further research. The Paramparai is
more dependable when it deals with the Acaryas, who were certainly less
remote; in fact Pinbalagiya Perumal Jiyar himself was living in the age of the
Acaryas. He was the student of Nampillai. Nampillai was the successor of
Nanjiyar on the Vaisnava pontifical seat at Srirangam; Nanjiyar was the
student of Bhattar; and Bhattar in his turn was the successor of Ramanuja.
Manavala Mahamuni came almost a century after Nampillai; and Pillai Lokam
Jiyar continued the narrative of Pinbalagiya Perumal Jiyar and dealt in detail
with the life of Manavala Mahamuni in his ‘Yatindra Pravana Prabhavam’.

It was once believed that Garudavahana Pandita, the author of the

Divyasuricaritam, was a contemporary of Ramanuja, but it has been
effectively shown that he came much later and that his work was posterior
to and based on the Arayirappadi Guruparamparai.11 (Cf. B.V.Ramanujam’s
article on the ‘Divyasuricaritam’ (JIH XIII, pp. 181-202) and
A.S.Ramanatha Aiyar’s edition of the Srirangam inscription of Garudavahana
Bhattar, S. 1415. (EI. XXIV. pp.90 ff). The author, who perhaps
composed the Caritam in the first years of the 15th century, did not trace
the account of the Divyasuris upto his own time. He stopped with Ramanuja;
and he himself, in the opening verses, tells that his set purpose in composing
the Kavya was to trace the lives of the Divyasuris upto Ramanuja, which in
itself forms a convenient period in the history of the Vaisnava movement and
about which there is a continuous and unanimous tradition. In this work the
lives of the Alvars are briefly traced in the first eight sargas. Sargas 9
and 10 are taken up by the subject of Andal’s marriage with Sriranganatha.
The ‘Mahatmyam’ of Srirangam finds mention in the 10th sarga. Tirumangai
Alvar is again brought in as the thief who waylaid the marriage party
consisting of Andal, Alagiyamanavalan and their attendants. The 15th sarga
is taken up by a recital of the festivals celebrated for the God at
Srirangam throughout the different seasons of the year.

The Lakshmi Kavyam

The author of the Lakshmi Kavyam was Uttamanambi Tirumalacarya.

He, says that he was the grandson of Uttamaraya, who had a brother
named Cakraraya. The Koil Olugu speaks prominently of an Uttamanambi who
had the titles ‘Meinilaiyitta’, ‘Ellainilaiyitta’, and ‘Valiyadimainilaiyitta’, and
his brother Cakraraya and assigns him to the date S.1337. It is obvious
that the Uttamaraya of the Lakshmi Kavyam, who is said to have
administered the Srirangam temple with royal insignia, is the same as
Valiyadimainilaiyitta Uttamanambi of the Koil-Olugu. A copper plate
inscription belonging to the Srirangam temple mentions Valiyadimainilaiyitta
Perumal Uttamanambi as the donee and is dated S.1356 or A.D.1434.12
(E1. XVIII. Pp. 138 ff) His grandson Tirumalainatha Uttamanambi also,
viz., S.1366 or A.D.1444. The Uttamanambi Vamsaprabhavam mentions
Srirangacarya Uttamanambi and assigns him to the period S.1328-1372. It
also mentions Tirumalainatha Aiyan Uttamanambi and says that be began to
collect donations for the temple after S.1372 (A.D.1450).13 (‘Uttamanambi
Vamsaprabhavam’, Taylor III. p. 438.)

There is much common ground between the Divyasuricaritam and the

Laksmikavyam; the two were not far removed from each other in date.
Probably the kavyam appeared a little earlier than the caritam. While the
latter deals first with the lives of the Alvars and then dwells extensively on
the marriage of Andal with the God at Srirangam, the former is entirely
concerned with the marriage of Uraiyurvalli (another consort of the God)
with Sriranganatha. This kavya deals with the various festivities of the
Adibrahmotsava in great detail and as such is of considerable interest to a
person intimately connected with the shrine, but unfortunately it has not
been printed.

Local dynastic accounts

Two genealogical lists called the Annan Tirumaligai Olugu and the
Uttamanambi vamsa-prabhavam deal respectively with the families of
Kandadai Andan, the son of Mudaliyandan, to whom the control of the temple
was entrusted by Ramanuja, and the Uttamanambis, who played a notable
part in the history of the Srirangam temple, especially during the
Vijayanagar period. Both the accounts were collected by Col. Colin
Mackenzie. The latter is also available in print.

The Parameswara Samhita of the Pancaratragama

The Agamas form a voluminous part of Sanskrit literature. Like the

stalamahatmyas they claim great antiquity and are attributed to the risis or
the sages of yore and appear in the form of discourses. There are three
varieties of agamas, viz., Saiva, Vaisnava and Sakta. The Vaisnava agamas
are of two kinds, viz., Pancaratra and Vaikhanasa. While the latter is
attributed to the sage Vikhanasa, various explanations are given for the
former, viz., that it explains five principles, that it was told during five
nights, that it expels five-fold darknesses, etc. Each has numerous guide
books called samhitas, those of the Pancaratra being more numerous. They
are said to number more than 200. Of these the Satvata, the Pauskara and
the Jayakhya are said to be the most important. Different Vaisnava
temples following the Pancaratra have chosen different samhitas and have
stuck to them at least so far as the rituals and mantras are concerned, and
hence they serve as text-books for the priests. The Srirangam temple
follows the Parameswara Samhita of the Pancaratragama.14
(‘Sripancaratrantargata Sriparamesvarasamhita’, edited by
U.V.Govindacarya, Srirangam, 1953. The printed part deals with the
Kriyakanda of the samhita, the gnanakanda having been lost.)

The samhita consists of 26 chapters and deals with the following:

snanavidhi, bhutasuddhi, mantranyasa, berapuja, agnikarya, vimana devata,
dvara-avaranadi devata, Garuda-Visvaksenadi parivararcanam, pratista-
vidhanam, pavitrotsavam, sayanotsavam, dhvajarohanam, naivedyas,
prayascittas, rules governing tulapurusa and hiranyagarbha danas,
samproksnam, Sudarsana yantra, its puja, etc. It gives full details of
disposition of the gateway gopuras of all the seven prakaras, dvarapalas and
upadvarapalas, dvara devatas, avarana devatas, sobha devatas and upa-
sobhadevatas, and the devatas of the various parts of the vimana including
the sanctum.

It is not easy to fix the age of the samhita. It need not be held that
it belongs to a period when full blown temples with seven prakaras and
elaborate rules regarding pujas, festivals, etc., were known, for such a view
presupposes that the temple came first and then the agama. It is more
likely that the agamas, in a very early period, laid down rules, as
elaborately as possible, governing the architecture and iconography of an
ideal temple as well as pujas, prayascittas etc., and that temple builders
tried to follow them as best as they could. If it is accepted, on the
authority of the Koil-Olugu, that the Vaikhanasas were doing worship in the
Srirangam temple and that they were replaced by Udayavar by priests
trained in the Pancaratra, as expounded in the Paramesvara-samhita,15
(KO. pp.45, 46, 55, 100 and 173) the latter was certainly known in his
period and perhaps long before. One thing appears to be plain. Whoever the
author of the samhita was he seems to have had the Srirangam temple in his
mind, for Chapter X, which deals with the vimana devatas, mentions the
Ranga-vimana and relates its mahatmya. It is also possible that it was the
product of more than one author belonging to different periods.

Modern Period

Coming to the modern period the monographs on the Nayaks of

Coming to the modern period the monographs on the Nayaks of
Madura and those of Tanjore, compiled with the help of inscriptions, the
Jesuit letters and the native chronicles, help in checking the accounts of the
Koil-Olugu on the relations of the Nayaks with the Srirangam temple.16
(‘The Nayaks of Madura’ by R.Sathyanatha Aiyar and the ‘Nayaks of
Tanjore’ by V.Vriddhagirisan.) For the period of the rule of the Nawabs of
Arcot and the Carnatic Wars have been utilised, in the main, Robert Orme’s
‘Military transactions of the British nation in Indostan’ and Burhan Ibn
Hasan’s Tuzaki-walajahi. Burhan, the son of Hasan, was a resident of
Trichinopoly and he wrote his work in the reign of Muhammad Ali Walajah
when Haidar Ali invaded the Carnatic.17 (‘Tuzaki Walajahi’ (Madras
University Islamic series 1. Translated and edited by M.Hussain Nainar),
pt.1. p. XXVI.) Three collections of “Collectors’ and Magistrates’ Orders
and Judicial affairs and decisions in the Adalut Courts” with reference to
the details of administration and religious ceremonial of the Srirangam temple
that arose between the years 1803 and 1894 by K.S.Rangaswamy Aiyangar
of Srirangam compiled in the latter year are useful for a study of the
recent history of the temple. The well-know Diary of Anandaranga Pillai has
also been found to be useful.


Copyright © 2005-2007, All rights reserved.

Events of Today



A The Thiruchirapalli rock and the twin rivers, the Kaveri and the Coleroon
Thiruchirapalli, the headquarters of the district of the same name,
M lies on the southern bank of the river Kaveri at a point crossed by latitude
10.50 N and longitude 78.46 E. Great mountain ranges or chains of hills do
U not, anywhere in the district, form well-marked boundaries; but in the south
and south-west lie scattered rocks, and some of these like the Tiruccirapalli
rock, the Golden Rock and Ratnagiri hill are solid and crystalline masses that
lured the minds of the ancient sculptors and temple builders. The
Thiruchirapalli rock is historically the most important of these, and its
height, from the level of the roads below it, is 273’. Nearby lies the suburb
of Uraiyur, which was once the capital of the Colas. Opposite to it and on
the northern bank of the Kaveri lie the Vaisnava and Saiva shrines of
Srirangam and Jambukesvaram on an islet formed by the two rivers, the
Kaveri and the Coleroon.

The river Kaveri, which divides the district into two nearly equal
parts, the northern and the southern, splits into two nine miles west of
Srirangam. The northern branch takes the name of Coleroon (Kollidam) while
the southern retains the name of the Kaveri. Eight miles east of the town
they almost reunite through the channel known as Ullar, but are kept apart
by a dam known as the Grand Anicut. The main river, viz., the Kaveri,
which takes its source in the Western Ghats in Coorg, enters the Tanjore
district, exhausts itself in a network of irrigation channels, and almost loses
itself in the sands before reaching the sea. But the Coleroon, which forms
through its entire length the dividing line between the Thiruchirapalli and the
Tanjore districts, falls into the sea at the northern most point of the
Tanjore district as a wide mouthed river.

From its source upto Erode the river is known as the Kaveri; from
Erode upto the point of bifurcation ahead of Srirangam as the ‘Akhanda’ or
‘undivided’ Kaveri and thence Kaveri once more. The two branches of the
same river are also referred to as the southern and the northern Kaveri
rivers in literature of a traditional and religious type. Ptolemy refers to it in
his Geography as Khaberos.
The river has ever been an important adjunct to the Hindu temple and
the former is as sacred as the latter. This is especially so with regard to
the Srirangam temple, which lies in all the natural richness and sanctity that
could be afforded by the two rivers that flow on either side, ‘garlanding’ as
it were, in the language of the Mahatmya, the God enshrined therein.
According to Puranas (Agneya and Skanda) Kaveri was originally the daughter
of Brahma and later became the adopted child of Kaveramuni. Out of her
own prayers she became a sacred river, whose waters should wash away all
sin. According to the Harivamsa Kaveri was originally one-half of the Ganga
and became the river that she is as a result of the curse of her father.
The Tamil classic Manimekalai says that the river was brought into existence
by the prayers of Kantaman and his devotion to the sage Agastya to avert
the distress caused by drought in his land; and that it appeared by the side
of the city of Campapati.1 (Manimekalai, Padigam, lines 6-14) The name
‘Kaveri’ is better explained by some such legendary association rather than
an attempted derivation of the word from ‘Kavi’ (red ochre) because of the
muddy colour of the river during floods, or ‘ka’ a grove and ‘eri’ a lake.2
(Caldwell (Grammar of Dravidian Languages) p.569.)

The river Kaveri seems to have been a freakish river in ancient times.
The building of floodbanks to the river by Karikala Cola is prominently
mentioned in Tamil literary tradition. The river must have overflowed
because it had very few outlets excepting one, viz., the Coleroon, in the
shape of tributaries that spread all over the Tanjore district today. In the
historical period the Srirangam temple itself was often threatened by floods
in the Kaveri and diversion channels had to be dug now and then to remove
the overflow.3 (KO. pp. 118-19)

The river Coleroon is a more imposing river than the Kaveri as it moves
farther and farther away from its parent. The Tamil forms Kollidam.
Kollidam mean respectively a ‘receptacle’ or ‘reservoir’ and ‘a place of
slaughter’. The fact that the Coleroon acts as a safety-valve of the Kaveri
carrying off its surplus water might have given rise to the form of ‘Kollidam’.
Regarding the other expression popular tradition says that a certain local
chief build the temple at Srirangam with the help of wealth obtained from
plunder. The builder employed an army of men and ultimately found his
coffers empty. When the labourers clamoured for wages he took them all in
a huge boat to the middle of the river Coleroon, where he drowned them
with the thought that they would obtain beautification as a reward for their
sacred services. The Guruparamparai and the Prapannamrtam mention this
incident and attribute it to Tirumangai Alvar.

Uraiyrur (Woraiyur) was the capital of the earliest known Colas

referred to by the Sangam literature. Today it is an insignificant suburb of
Thiruchirapalli and contains an important sub-shrine attached to the
Srirangam temple, viz., that of Uraiyur Nacciyar, one of the two consorts
of Alagiyamanavalan, the God at Srirangam, the other being Sriranga
Nacciyar, whose shrine is contained within the main temple of Srirangam.

In Sanskrit Uraiyur has been known as Uragapura. The Gadval plates

of the Early Calukya king, Vikramaditya I, dated 674 A.D. mention
Uragapura, on the southern bank of the Kaveri, referring to Uraiyur. The
Prapannamrtam adopts this terminology. In Vaishnava tradition Uraiyur is
known as Nisulapuri, after Nisulai, the mother of Kamalavalli, a Cola
princess, who became the consort of the God at Srirangam. Uraiyur itself
means nothing more than a place of dwelling in Tamil.

The Nisulapurai Mahatmya gives the following account of Uraiyur and

Uraiyur Nacciyar. The environs of the Thiruchirapalli rock, which were thick
forests, were once the abode of the asura Kara. The sage Agastya made
that region a fit habitat for the Risis by sending the asura to the north.
Then the Cola king, Dharmavaram, left Kumbakonam and founded a city on
the southern bank of the Kaveri and called it Nisulapuri after his wife
Nisula. To these mortals was born Lakshmi because she repulsed the sage
Bhrigu, who attempted an exclusive interview with Visnu and thus stood in
the way of her dalliance with her lord. She was called Vasalaksmi and she
loved and married God Ranganatha. The Divyasuricaritam gives the same
episode of Uraiyurvalli, but the Koil-Olugu mentions her as the daughter of
Nanda Cola, a descendant of Dharmavarma. The latter account further
states that after the marriage of Kamalavalli with Alagiyamanavalan, the
God at Srirangam, Nanda Cola constructed many mantapas, gopuras and walls
in Srirangam, and built a temple in his own city of Uraiyur for his daughter
and the ‘Divine Bridegroom’. The love of the divine daughter of the Cola with
the God culminating in marriage has been the favourite theme of some
romantic pieces of Vaisnava literature, the chief of which of which is the
Sanskrit work called the Lakshmi Kavya by Uttamanambi Tirumalacarya. The
same theme is celebrated by the Panguni Uttiram festival, which forms an
exciting item of the Adibrohmotsava in Srirangam. According to the Kavya
Uraiyurvalli (Laksmi) was the daughter of Karikala Cola and she chose
Ranganatha as her husband in a svyamvara, which was attended by the gods
of both the Vaishnava and Saiva pantheon.

Srirangam is classed as the first and most important of the 108

Vaisnava shrine which lie scattered throughout India. In Vaisnava parlance it
has been known as the ‘koil’ - the temple par excellence - and bears the
same relation to Vaisnavism as Cidambaram does to Saivism. The temple walls
contain inscriptions dating from the 10th century. A history of Srirangam
resolves itself into an account of the growth of the Vaisnava cult in South
India. From the start the Vaisnava movement made Srirangam its
headquarters and its rallying point, and the Vaisnava bards and mystics
looked upon the shrine as the loadstar of their devotions and aspirations. All
the Alvars with the exception of Madurakavi, whose only work was the ‘ten’
beginning with Kanninunciruttambu in laudation of his Acarya, Nammalvar,
have mentioned the shrine and its deity Ranganatha in their works, and
Madurakavi himself was very active in the shrine for the sake of his guru
though he has not mentioned it in his verses.

The local stalapurana

The origin of this shrine is carried to hoary antiquity by pious tradition

and belief which find sanctity and greatness in what is immemorial.
Accordingly much stress is laid upon the deity rather than the temple. The
origin of the temple is the problem of the archaeologist and is more secular,
but not so is the quest of the pious devotee, who regards the temple as the
earthly abode of God, who is eternal and universal; to him the temple cannot
but be without a beginning, and more so the vimana or the sanctum containing
the image of the God. The Sriranga Mahatmya4 (An orthodox version is given
in ASI, Madras, 1903-4 pp. 60 ff.) gives this traditional account about the
origin of the Sriranga Vimana, around which grew the temple in the course of
time. The following is a brief account of the Mahatmya, which is said to
form part of the Brahmanda purana, one of the 18 Mahapuranas.

Rudra expounds to Narada the origin, growth and greatness of

Sriranga thus:

When God created Brahma from his navel and deputed him to create
the earth the latter was at his wit’s end when he saw a sheer expanse of a
water. When he was thus perplexed God came to him in the form of a swan
(hamsa) and saying ‘Om’ disappeared. Then Brahma worshipped God saying
‘Om’. Once again God appeared to him as a swan and preached the Vedas,
which were stolen away by the two asuras, Madhu and Kaitabha. Brahma,
unable to trace them even after an elaborate search, appealed to God, who
appeared to him in the form of a fish, killed the asuras in His manifestation
of a horse (hayagriva) and disappeared after restoring the Vedas. Then
Brahma created the universe.

He was displeased, however, with his creation, for he found that

everything was transient and disappeared in course of time. He went to
Ksirasagar (‘Ocean of milk’) and worshipped God, who appeared to him as a
tortoise. Brahma was puzzled and prayed to God to show him His real form.
Thereupon God advised him to worship Him by repeating the Astaksara or
the eight-lettered mantra (Om Namo Narayanaya). Brahma, so doing, lost
himself in penance and contemplation. As a result of his penance the
Sriranga Vaimana sprang from the Ksirasagar radiating lustre alround.5 (The
expression Sriranga Vimana is used to denote the turret as well as the oval
shaped sanctum beneath it, containing the image of the reclining Ranganatha.
The turret, the sanctum and the image form a single whole and are
inseparably associated with one another.) It was borne by Garuda. Sesa,
the Serpent God, had spread his hood over it. Visvaksena, with a stick in
hand, cleared the way for the God. The sun and moon were fanning the deity
with chowries. Narada and Tumburu followed singing. There was the
Jayaghosa of Rudra and other gods and the ‘Dundubighosa’. The celestial
courtesans danced. Clouds rained flowers. There were great hurrahs and

Brahma awoke from his penance and prostrated himself before the
vimana. He stood up saying the four Vedas through his four mouths and was
lost in amazement. Sunanda, a celestial watch at the gate (dwarapalaka),
told him that the three lettered Vimana, ‘Sri-ra-nga’ was the result of his
penance, that God was resting with His consort inside and that he could see
Him and worship Him. Then Brahma worshipped the Almighty for a long time.
Finally the God spoke to him thus: “Listen O Brahma! I have appeared as a
result of your penance.” Then he explained to him the four types of idols
and vimanas, - (1) Svayamvykta - created by God, i.e., God Himself
choosing to come down as an idol, (2) Divya - created by the Devas, (3)
Saiddha - created by a great seers and (4) Manusya - created by mortals.
“The Vimanas of the first class, viz., Svayamvyakta will appear in eight
places - Srirangam, Srimusnam, Venkatadri, Saligram, Naimisaranyam,
Totadri, Puskara and Badrikasrama. Rangavimana is the first and the
earliest of these” Speaking of the second class of idols the God said, “I will
come to Kanci as Varadaraja, where my idol will be installed by you. Ananta
will instal my idol in the south, Rudra in Kandikapura, Visvakarma at Nanda,
Dharma at Vrisabagiri, Asvini at Asvatirtha, Indra at Cakratirtha, etc. So
also great seers will install me in certain places and men everywhere.” Then
the God explained to Brahma the procedure for conducting the worship and
lay down in the characteristic pose at Srirangam and kept silent.

Brahma took the vimana from Ksirasagar to his abode in Satyaloka and
established it on the banks of the Vraja. He appointed Viwasvan, the sun
god, to do the daily puja of the God. After Viwasvan his son Vaivasvata
Manu continued the puja. Iksvaku, a son of Manu, became the king of
Ayodhya and found it difficult to worship the vimana at Satyaloka. Hence he
did penance, which extended over hundreds of years, and obtained the
permission of Brahma to take it to Ayodhya. After Iksvaku his descendants
worshipped the God. Rama gave the vimana to Vibhisana, who established it
on the banks of the Kaveri.

At this stage Narada asks Rudra to give details of the above account,
viz., the coming of the vimana to Srirangam. Rudra replies:

Vasista told Iksvaku, his disciple, the origin of the Sriranga Vimana
and added that after being worshipped by him and his generations, it would
establish itself in Srirangam and be worshipped by the Cola monarchs. As
advised by his guru Iksvaku did penance near the former’s asrama with the
object of bringing the vimana to Ayodhya from Satyaloka. Indra, the king of
the gods knew the purpose of the penance and consulted Brahma about the
possibility of their losing the vimana. Brahma went to Visnu, who told him
that it was His intention to go to Ayodhya and thence to Srirangam. Then
Brahma brought the vimana to Iksvaku on the back of Garuda. Iksvaku
carried the vimana to Ayodhya, established it between the rivers Sarayu
and Tamasa, built a shrine and organised worship.

Dasaratha, in the line of Iksvaku, performed the sacrifices of

Asvamedha and Putrakamesti for which celebrations he invited monarchs of
all India, one of whom was Dharmavarma, the Cola. Dharmavarma saw the
Rangavimana, knew its history and wanted to have it in his country. So, when
he returned home he began performing penance on the banks of the
Candrapuskarani.6 (A tank in the Srirangam temple.) The risis around said to
him, “Nearby lies your old city in ruins.7 (The reference is to Uraiyur, the
capital of the Colas.) Rudradeva burnt it in anger. Close to it there was a
risi-asram, where we had congregated under the leadership of Dalbya risi,
who worshipped God. When God appeared to him, he requested Him to stay
there and sanctify the place, to which the latter replied that in His avatar
as Rama, He would come to that place as Ranganatha, for the sake of
Vibhisana. We are expecting the Sriranga Vimana even now. Hence your
penance is unnecessary”. On hearing this Dharmavarma stopped his penance
and retired to Nisula.

Rama worsted Ravana in battle, crowned Vibhisana king of Lanka and

performed the ‘asvamedha’ sacrifice in Ayodhya. To it all were invited
including Dharmavarma. Rama presented the Rangavimana to Vibhisana out of
his munificence as the latter was very much helpful to him in his fight
against Ravana.

Vibhisana bore the vimana on his head and, on his way to Lanka,
stopped at Srirangam and placed the vimana on the banks of the
Candrapuskarani. The risis immediately informed Dharmavarma about the
arrival of the vimana. The Cola king came to the spot and received Vibhisana
with great delight. The latter bathed in the sacred waters of the Kaveri
and worshipped the vimana. Dharmavarma also performed puja and requested
Vibhisana to stay with him for a few days. To this Vibhisana did not agree
and said that an utsava had to be performed in Lanka the next day. The
cola replied that the festival might as well be performed in his own country
and that he would meet all the expenses. Vibhisana then agreed to stay, and
the festival was begun and celebrated for nine days in a grand fashion.
After a stay of a fortnight Vibhisana started for Lanka. To his utter
amazement and sorrow the vimana had got itself fixed to the spot where he
had placed it and had become irremovable.8 (According to the popular local
version Vibhisana had been instructed by Rama not to place the vimana on
the ground. At Srirangam Vibhisana entrusted it to a Brahmana boy for a
short while. The latter placed it on the ground as the former did not return
in time, as promised. When he returned Vibhisana found the vimana on the
ground and irremovable. He became angry and chased the boy, who ran up
the rock on the other side of the Kaveri. He was no other than Ganesa
(Uccipillaiyar). See also Parameswara Samhita (10:279-281) ) Vibhisana
shed tears. The God then said to him, “This place is good, so also its king
and people. I desire to stay here. You may retire to Lanka”. He also
related to Vibhisana the sanctity of the river Kaveri. “Visvavasu, a
Gandharva of the Vindhyas, met on the hill side a congregation of river
goddesses and made his obeisance to them. Immediately a debate arose as
to whom it was meant. All except Ganga and Kaveri withdrew from the
contest. Both the disputants went to Brahma, who declared that Ganga was
superior. Kaveri did penance as a result of which Brahma granted to her a
status of equality. Still dissatisfied she is performing penance at
Saraksetra. To give her the first place among the rivers I have to raise
her sanctity to the utmost by remaining in her midst. I will recline here
facing your country. You may go back to Lanka.”

Dharmavarma built a shrine for the vimana, the surrounding prakaras

and organised worship.

As noted earlier this Mahatmya, which claims the parentage of the

Brahmanda purana, is at best the crystallisation of a local tradition that had
grown up in course of time; as such no date could be assigned to it. The
chronology adopted by it is simply baffling and hence useless for historical
purposes. Taking the tradition of the eight shrines of the “Svayamvyakta”
idols to be a genuine and an old one, one can perhaps say that Srirangam was
the first and earliest among the major Vaisnava shrines of South India.
Dharmavarma, the Cola king, who was a contemporary of Dasaratha and
Rama, is undoubtedly a mythical figure. The pauranica does not care to
connect the historical Colas with the legendary Cola, nor does he hesitate to
pass from one yuga to another. But the chronicler, in the Koil-Olugu,
obviously found some difficulty in closing so wide a gap in time, and in
inventing the story of a sandstorm, in which was buried the whole temple
constructed by Dharmavarma, he achieved a double purpose; on the one had
he passed from the Treta yuga to Kali yuga, and on the other from
Dharmavarma to the historical Killi Cola, who is said to have reconstructed
the temple. That seems to be the best way of interpreting the account of
the sandstorm referred to in the Olugu.

That this tradition in the Mahatmya was not of a late origin and
purely of local character can be gleaned from references to it in the Valmiki
Ramayana and the Padma and Matsya puranas. From the Valmiki Ramayana
we know that Rama advised Vibhisana, before he retired to Vaikunta, to rule
over his country with righteousness and to worship constantly the family
deity of the Iksvaku kings that had been presented to him.9 (Uttarakanda,
sarga 131, slokas 30, 31 and 91.) The object presented is mentioned as
kuladana or family property. That this kuladana was Sriranga Vimana is
known from the Padma Purana.10 (Padma Purana, Uttara kanda, Ch.90
(Sriranga varnana) ) The Matsya Purana mentions Srirangam as a place of
pilgrimage.11 (Ch.22. v.44. (12) Canto X.L.156; XI.L.39.) In the present
stage of things these references are more genuine that the ‘10 chapters’ of
the Sriranga Mahatmya, said to be an episode in the Brahmanda Purana and
the ‘108 chapters’ version of the Garuda Purana.


Srirangam is a compound of Sri and Rangam. In Sanskrit Rangam means

a stage; and Srirangam means ‘the holy stage’ or ‘the holy stage-like seat
of God’. In Tamil arangam means an islet formed by two rivers, and it is by
this epithet that the shrine is generally referred to by the Vaisnava works
in Tamil. The Silappadikaram refers to it by this term and also by turutti,
both meaning the same thing.12 (Canto X.L.156; XI.L.39.) Kovalan, the
hero of the Silappadikaram, wanted to earn a living in Madurai, after he had
spent his fortune upon the courtesan Madavi in Puhar or Kavirippumpattinam.
He started along with his virtuous wife Kannaki, and “after several days
journey, they reached Srirangam, where the river Kaveri was hidden by the
island. Nearby was the habitation fit for the gods - a spot filled with the
fragrance of different flowers in the thick groves fenced by the bent
bamboo.”13 (Canto X. LL. 155-58) At this point they crossed the Kaveri
and reached Uraiyur on the southern bank of the river. From Uraiyur they
proceeded south and after a short journey “met a venerable Brahmana, who
praised the Pandyan king of unblemished repute. On Kovalan asking him which
was his native home and what brought him there, he said: ‘I am a native of
Mankadu, in the region of Kudamalai (the western hills). I came to satisfy
my heart’s desire to see with my own eyes the glory of Visnu, whom many
worship with prayer as He reposes with Laksmi in His breast on the couch of
the widening waves of the Kaveri, even as the blue clouds repose supine on
the slopes of the lofty golden mountain (Meru). (I also came to see) the
beauty of the red-eyed Lord, holding in his beautiful lotus-hands the discus,
which is death to His enemies, and also the milk-white conch; (to see Him)
wearing a garland of flowers on His breast, and draped in golden flowers, on
His breast, and draped in golden flowers, and dwelling upon the topmost
crest of the tall and lofty hill named Venkatam with innumerable water-falls,
standing like a cloud in its natural hue adorned with a rain-bow and attired
with lightning, in the midst of a place both sides of which are illuminated by
the spreading rays of the sun and moon.”14 (V.R.R. Dikshitar’s edn. Of the
Silappadikaram (pp.172-73); Canto XI.LL.35-51) On ascertaining from this
Brahmana the best route to Madurai they proceeded on their way to that

Now this reference to the important Vaisnava temples in South India

by the Silappadikaram is noteworthy. But it is unfortunate that the date of
this epic has so far remained a point of doubt and controversy. The
Gajabahu synchronism establishes beyond doubt the contemporaneity of Ceran
Senguttuvan, who raised an image for Kannaki, the heroine of the epic, and
Gajabahu I, who reigned in the later half of the 2nd century A.D. Yet some
scholars have raised the pertinent question, “when was the epic in its
present form composed?” In the existing state of our knowledge it does not
present form composed?” In the existing state of our knowledge it does not
appear to be an easy task to answer this question with precision. Avoiding a
controversy, which leads us nowhere, we may, for all practical purposes,
agree with the generally accepted date, viz., the second half of the 2nd
century A.D.15 (V.R.R.Dikshitar (op.cit) pp.8-9. Intrn.)

A reference to Arangam and the Panguni festival in an Aham ode is

interesting. It mentins Urandai, Arangam and the Panguni festival. The poem
is to the following effect: “Although your lover has not yet crossed over to
foreign tracts (to earn a livelihood) I am surprised to see how much you are
distressed by the thought of separation. Your face has lost its lustre and
resembles the sandy and thickly wooded river bank in Arangam (in Uraiyur of
the mighty Colas) with quenched hearths, strewn hither and thither after
the close of the celebration of the Panguni festival; your shoulders likewise
have lost their beauty. How can I bear this (behaviour of yours.”16 (Aham
137.) This poem is by Mudukuttanar of Uraiyur, and purports to be the
sentiments expressed by the confidante of the heroine, when the latter was
oppressed by the thought of separation from her lover. It is quite likely
that Arangam, here, refers to Srirangam, closely associated with Uraiyur,
the Cola capital. The absence of joyous tumult on the banks of the Kaveri
after the Panguni festival is taken by the poet as the point of comparison.
Apparently there is no association of the festival with the Vaisnava temple
at Srirangam and Arangam might be interpreted simply as the scene of the
festival. The reference is as good or as bad as ‘Venkatam of festivals’ in
another Aham ode.17 (Aham 61) The reading of the Vaisnava temples of
Srirangam and Vengadam in the Ahananuru, however, need not be looked at
with suspicion. It may be noted here that the first three Alvars (i.e. the
Mudalalvars), who have made a number of references in their verses to the
God enshrines in these two places, belong, in the opinion of a majority of
modern scholars, to the period of the classical Tamil literature, i.e., of the
Sangam period, to which the Aham odes belong. It is also to be noted that
Killi Cola, who figures in the Koil-Olugu as the founder of the Srirangam
temple, belongs to the Sangam period. There is also the tradition of the
Cola princess, who loved and married Ranganatha, which is the theme of the
epic, the Laksmi Kavya, and which is the main event of the Adibrahmotsava,
viz., the Panguni Uttiram festival. The inference may thus be drawn that
the origins of the Srirangam temple may be laid in the Sangam period.

The first Alvars and Srirangam

The Vaisnava tradition assigns the First Alvars (Mudalalvar) to

Dvapara yuga, evidently in recognition of their antiquity. These are the
Alvars Poigai, Bhutam and Pey. We have a Poigaiyar, a Bhuttanar and a
Peyanar among the Sangam poets. Controversy has mainly centred round the
identification of the Poigai Alvar of the First Tiruvandadi with the Poigaiyar
of the Kalavali Forty, a Sangam work. Several scholars have accepted the
identification while some have not.18 (M.Raghava Aiyangar. Sen Tamil;
I.p.6, and Alwargal Kalanilai, p.23 ff. Contra M.S.Srinivasa Pillai, Tamil
Varalaru, pp.176-7, and N.M.Venkatasamy Nattar, Sentamil Selvi, II.
Article on Poigaiyar.) We may proceed on the assumption that the first
Alvars belong to the Sangam age.

Poigai Alvar sings of the God at Srirangam and exclaims that he would
never forget the Perumal: “I knew and worshipped, even while I was in my
mother’s womb, the glories of Periya Perumal, who is resting in Srirangam.
His form, which resembles the cool expanse of the sea, I can never forget.
O unspiritual beings! I can never remove His image from my mind, today,
when I am full of the knowledge of God.”19 (Nalayirapprabandam, I centum

Bhuttattu Alvar stresses the Vaisnava doctrine of self-surrender

thus: “Those who do not follow the right path of object submission to the
God, who is resting at Tennarangam, will have to snap the strong bonds of
family, etc., (and practise ascerticism). But lo, before such men reach the
strongly guarded Vaikuntam, the abode of the eternals, its gateway would be
closed! This truth, now, I have come to know”.20 (II centum 88.)

Pey Alvar refers to “Tiruvarangam brimming with gardens full of

honeyed flowers” and says that Kanci, Tiruvarangam, Kudandai (Kumbakonam)
and Tirukkottiyur are the earthly abodes of God.21 (III centum.62.)

Tirumalisai Alvar

According to the Vaisnava tradition Alvar Tirumalisai was the younger

contemporary of the First Alvars. In both of his works, the Tiruccanda
Viruttam and the Nanmugan Tiruvandadi Tirumalisai refers many a time to
the shrine of Srirangam and the God resting therein. The Kaveri with its
branch, the Coleroon, encircling the shrine, as well as luxuriant gardens that
abounded on the fertile soil of Srirangam (as is the case even today) seem
to have captured the imagination of these early mystic poets as forcibly as
the numerous waterfalls on the Tirumalai hills. Two typical verses from the
Tiruccanda Viruttam are to the following effect: “Where abides the God
that playfully shot from his bow balls of earth at the hunchbacked woman,
whose head was adorned with flowers visited by bees? (The divine abode is)
Tiruvarangam watered by the beautiful and cool river Kaveri, at whose banks
the crane walks majestically feeding on the crabs, (at which) the valai fish
skip about in fear and the Kendai take shelter in water lilies”.22 (Tiruccanda

Again, “which is the sacred shrine where abides the mighty Perumal
who, once, shot arrows from His strong bow, the ‘Sarnga’, so that even the
black sea with white waves caught fire and glowed red? (It is) the beautiful
Tiruvarangam, which contains many sacred pools, in which people from all the
eight directions bathe and worship and which is surrounded by gardens where
sing the bees.”23 (Ibid.50.)

Over and above the river and the gardens, Srirangam was famous for
the eight sacred pools or punya tirtas in the eight directions around the
shrine, which are referred to by Tirumalisai, when he speaks of the ‘sacred
pools, in which people from all the eight directions bathe and worship’ The
local stalamahatmya, said to form part of the Garuda purana, speaks of
these eight tirtas, surrounding the chief tirta within the shrine, viz., the
Candrapuskarani. They are (1) the Asvatta tirta in the south, (2) the
Palasa tirta in the southwest, (3) the Punnaga tirta in the west, (4) the
Vagula tirta in the northwest, (5) the Kadamba tirta in the north, (6) the
Amra tirta in the northeast, (7) the Bilva tirta in the east, and (8) the
Jambu tirta in the southeast. Each tirta had its own presiding deity, its own
Mahatmya and certain vratas connected with it. Each was associated with a
particular tree.

With absolute and surprising confidence in the divine beneficence

Tirumalisai exclaims: “Sriranganatha, who protects me with His saving grace
will hold me back and prevent my entry into the stage of wordly life; my
mind He has made His constant abode. Hence will He quit it for His serpent
couch on the Tirupparkadal? (He will not)”.24 (Nanmugan Tiruvandadi 30.)

The Origin of the Shrine

Leaving aside the traditional account of the origin of the Sriranga

Vimana as described in the Stalamahatmya it may be inferred, from the
above discussion, that the main shrine of the Ranganatha temple was erected
sometime in the Sangam period, when the early Colas were ruling from
Uraiyur. The early Alvars, whose references to Srirangam were considered
above, are assigned to this period on the strength of the identification of
Poigai Alvar with Poigaiyar. The references to Arangam in the Aham ode and
to the image of reclining Visnu at Srirangam in the Silappadikaram further
strengthen this view. The Koil-Olugu refers to a certain Killi Cola, who was
informed of the buried Sriranga Vimana in his dream and who resuscitated
the shrine by pulling down the enclosing forests and removing the sand that
had covered it.25 (KO.p.3-4) The Olugu continues that he built the
prakaras, as of old, laid down many flower-gardens and instituted the
temple services and organised worship. ‘Killi’ is obviously a contraction of
‘Killi’,26 (This form is adopted in such names of villages, in the Tanjore and
Thiruchirapalli districts), Kilinalur, Nalakillinallur and Kilianur.) and in Killi Cola
of the Koil-Olugu, we meet the first historical person mentioned in that
chronicle, who also figures as the builder of the temple. ‘Killi, was used as a
synonym for ‘Cola’ and many Cola kings of the Sangam age bore that title;
some of them were Nalangilli, Nedungilli and Perunarkilli. It is a futile task
therefore to investigate who the Killi Cola referred to by the Olugu is. For
all practical purposes we have to assume that the first foundations of the
temple were laid by a certain Cola king of Uraiyur, who ruled before the
time of Koccenganan, the contemporary of Poigai Alvar or Poigaiyar, to whom
Srirangam was already a shrine of some fame. It was in the fitness of
things that an early Cola king of Uraiyur selected such a beautiful site as
Srirangam, lying as it does between the two branches of the river Kaveri,
which almost encircle it, and so near his own capital, to build a temple on,
which in course of time grew up to be the biggest Vaisnava temple in South
India, a temple with the full complement of seven prakaras or enclosures
running round the sanctum.


Copyright © 2005-2007, All rights reserved.

Events of Today



In the previous chapter an attempt was made
N to trace the origin of the Srirangam temple and its early growth in the
Sangam period or roughly the first few centuries of the Christian era with
E the help of a few references in the classical Tamil literature and the verses
of the First Alvars. These show that the temple had attained sufficient
importance as to attract people “from the eight directions” who bathed in
the sacred pools and offered worship. The god was undoubtedly Visnu
reclining on the serpent couch (Adisesa).

Srirangam, during this period lay in the territory of the early Colas,
who ruled from Uraiyur. Their hegemony may be said to have lasted, say,
upto the 4th or the 5th century A.D. There follows a period of twilight,
when it would appear that the Colas, Ceras and the Pandyas were all
defeated and their territories overrun by some tribe or tribes, alien to the
Tamils, who called them in detestation ‘Kali arasar’ or ‘evil kings’, and that it
was on the ruins of the kingdom of these tribes of ‘Kalabhras’ that the
Pandyas revived their power in the south and the Pallavas established their
kingdom to the north of the Kaveri towards the close of the 6th century
A.D. We are on firm ground from 575 A.D. when the Pallava monarchs of
the Simhavisnyu line began to rule from Kanci. The Colas seem to have
continued to rule from Uraiyur not independently but as subordinates of the
Pallavas. They were able to reestablish their independent power only towards
the close of the 9th century, when the Pallavas of Kanci had weakened
themselves to a point of exhaustion as a result of almost unending conflicts
with the early Calukyas of Vatapi in the north in the early period and the
Pandyas in the south in the later period.

Though this age, i.e., the period immediately preceding the rise of the
Cola empire under Vijayalaya and Aditya, witnessed considerable political
unsettlement and confusion it was yet the heroic age of Hinduism in South
India. It saw the activities of the Saivite trio Appar, Sambandar and
Sundarar, the authors of the intensely devotional Tevaram songs, and who
popularised Sivabhakti among the princes and the people. Mahendravarman
Pallava (600-630 A.D.) was converted by Appar from Jainism to Saivism and
the Pandya Parankusa Maravarman alias Kun Pandya (670-710 A.D.) was
the Pandya Parankusa Maravarman alias Kun Pandya (670-710 A.D.) was
similarly converted by Sambandar. Everywhere in the south the Saiva and
Vaisnava movements were together overcoming the influence of Jainism and
Buddhism in high places and recording their triumphs. Temples to Siva and
Visnu were constructed in large numbers, e.g., the early Calukyan and
Pallava temples. The Srirangam temples seems to have waxed under the
impact of this renaissance. This is evident from the prabandas or verses of
the later Alvars.

The Later Alvars and Srirangam

The later Alvars are Nammalvar or Satakopa, Madurakavi (the disciple

of the former), Kulasekhara Alvar, Periyalvar, Andal (the daughter of
Periyalvar), Tondaradippodi Alvar or Bhaktanghrirenu, Tiruppan Alvar or
Yogivaha and Tirumangai Alvar or Parakala. According to Vaisnava tradition
most of these were contemporaries, of whom Tirumangai was the latest,
i.e., who outlived the rest. Their chronology presents several problems.
Working backwards from the age of the Acaryas and on the basis of the
tradition, which interposes an interval of 200 years between the last of the
Alvars and the first of the Acaryas, they are all assigned to the 8th
century A.D. All these make interesting and useful references to the shrine
of Srirangam; and atleast two of them are exclusively associated with it.

Nammalvar and Madurakavi

According to the Guruparamparai Nammalvar belonged to a dynasty of

chiefs of Tirukkurugur in the Tinnevelly district. His works are the
Tiruvaimoli, the Tiruviruttam, the Tiruv asiriyam and the Periya Tiruvandadi.
In these works the idea of self-surrender or ‘prapatti’ is explained in the
most touching words, voiced sometimes by a forlorn mother, sometimes by a
lady in love and sometimes by a pious devotee of God. Of the four works,
which are compared with the four Vedas, the Tiruvaimoli is considered to be
the most important. In the 1,000 verses of this work Nammalvar invokes
Visnu enshrined in Tirukkurugur, Tiruvengadam, Srirangam, Vanamamalai,
Tirumalirumsolai, etc., and yearns passionately that he be absorbed into the
divine self. He devotes 10 verses to Srirangam while invoking God through
the medium of an intense feeling of sympathy of a mother for her distracted
and love-lorn daughter. A single stanza will suffice to explain to the literary
artist the subtle way in which the Alvar expresses his emotions.

She knows no sleep either in the day or in the night; tears stream
down her eyes;
She raises her hands (in obeisance) to thy conch and the discus;
your lotus like eyes she pines for;
‘How shall I exist without you’ she exclaims; in despair she clutches
at the wide earth;
What hast thou proposed to do for her, O god of Tiruvarangam,
watered by the Kaveri, wherein skip the young fish?1 (Tiruvaimoli, 1-2-7)

In verse 3 of this ‘ten’ there is an important reference which goes to

show that Srirangam was, in the days of Nammalvar, a shrine surrounded by
prakara walls; it refers to ‘Tiruvarangam surrounded by mighty prakara walls
adorned by flags and pennons’! But for a few other references to the cool
waters (of the rivers) that surround the shrine, it is too much to expect any
thing of historical interest in these verses, though each contains much that
would engage the attention of a philosopher or literary critic. According to
the Vaisnava tradition the recitation of the Tiruvaimoli in the Srirangam
temple, during the famous Adyayana festival, is continuing ever since
Tirumangai Alvar established that practice. After the demise of Nammalvar
his devout sisya, Madurakavi, installed an image of his guru in a shrine at
Tirumangai and was glorifying his name in various ways. The Koil-Olugu adds
that he was occasionally going over to Srirangam to inquire after the temple
affairs.2 (K.O.p.9)

Kulasekhara Alvar

Alvar Kulasekhara is one of the later Alvars who were intimately

connected with Srirangam, the others being Tondaradippodi Alvar, Tiruppan
Alvar and Tirumangai alvar, and all these were roughly contemporary.
Perhaps we know more about Alvar Kulasekhara from his own words than any
other Alvar. He calls himself a king of the Kongu country with the capital at
Kolli.3 (Perumal Tirumoli, 3-9, 6-10) In course of time he became a great
devotee of Visnu, abdicated his kingdom in favour of his son and after
visiting many famous Vaisnava shrines retired to Srirangam, where he lived
till his death along with his daughter Cerakulavalli doing manifold services to
the God and the temple.

Kulasekara Alvar was perhaps one of the early Kerala kings,

frequently referred to in the copper plate grants of the Pandya kings of the
8th century A.D. as their victims on the fields of battle. He was certainly
not the famous Cera king, Ravivarman Kulasekhara, who came to power about
1311-12 A.D., for epigraphical evidence goes to show that the Alvar’s
verses were being sung in the Srirangam temple in the 11th century, and
perhaps earlier.4 (62 of 1892; SII IV; 70.) It may also be noted that he
refers to Tondaradippodi in one of his verses; and it is just possible that
the former was having in his mind the Alvar of that name.5 (Perumal
Tirumoli, 2-2)

Perumal Tirumoli is the work of Kulasekhara Alvar. Mukundamala in

Sanskrit is also attributed to him. The former abounds in interesting
references to Srirangam. This work consists of 105 verses divided into ten
‘tens’. The intense love of God which the Alvar exhibits in expressing his
humble devotion in these verses, couched in the most lovable and moving
terms, can only be compared with that exhibited by Tondaradippodi Alvar in
his Tirumalai; and certainly these two works excel each other in their choice
diction and fineness of expression.

Even as a ruler Kulasekhara was fond of the Ramayana and the two
shrines of Srirangam and Tiruvengadam. In the 1st verse of the 3rd ‘ten’ he
declares that he is not going to be one with the wold, which professes what
is unreal to be real. In the 4th ‘ten’ which is solely devoted to Vengadam,
he expresses the idea that he would rather be a campaka tree or a fish in
a streamlet on the Vengadam hills, or a menial servant or a doorstep in the
Vengadam temple, rather than be a king. The first three ‘tens’ are devoted
to Srirangam to which shrine Kulasekhara was particularly attached. In
verse I of the first ‘ten’ he exclaims:

“When are my eyes going to see, in great glee, Peria Perumal of

graceful form, who resembles a (huge) sapphire, reposing on the beautiful
couch formed by the serpent-king Adisesa (Tiruvanadalvan) of thousand
hoods that contain gems of dazzling brightness, in the great shrine of
Srirangam, where the Kavari of clear water is gently rubbing (the pain off)
His sacred feet with her hands (i.e., the waves!)” The verse is a fine
example of the poetical skill of the Alvar.

In verse 2 he exclaims: “when shall I, holding the tirumanattun (pillar

at the gateway of the sanctum), sing the praise of Ranganatha.” In verse 3
he expresses his deep desire to mix himself with the arcakas and offer
worship with flowers at the feet of the God at Srirangam. While expressing
the same idea in the next verse he calls Srirangam the resort of saints and
ascetics. In verse 5 he tells us that it was not exclusively a hermitage but
was also inhabited by householders and others; he refers to Srirangam as a
‘place containing luxurious storeyed houses, all riches and prakara walls’. The
next three verses contain beautiful allusions to the Kaveri river and the
fertile fields and gardens of Srirangam. In the last two verses he exclaims:
‘When shall I see the Perumal and dance in joy and roll myself on the earth
in a fit of jubilation! When shall I be one in the gosti of the Srivaisnavas in
the courtyard of Alagiyamanavalan’!

In the second ‘ten’ Kulasekhara expresses his deep administration and

respect for the fervent devotees of God Ranganatha and sings their praise.
In verse 3 of this ‘ten’ he says that he would adorn his forehead with the
mire in the courtyard of the Srirangam temple, formed by the joyful tears
shed by those who sang the praise the God. In verse 5 again there is
reference to the prakara walls, this time, ‘the mighty and big prakara
walls’. The remaining verses of the ten are filled with the idea of the Alvar
losing himself in delight over the fervent devotees of the God at Srirangam
and their unqualified devotion. In the third ‘ten’, also addressed to the same
God, he declares his asceticism and expresses his deep sense of hatred for
the materialistic objects.

The Koil-Olugu says that Kulasekhara married his daughter Colavalli (a

mistake for Cerakulavalli) to God Alagiyamanavalan, repaired the buildings
and walls of the third enclosure, and constructed the Senaivenran
tirumantapa in the southwestern corner of that enclosure. The enclosure
itself is known as Kulasekharan tiruvidi.6 (KO.p.6.) The Srirangam temple
has a shrine for Cerakulavalli.7 (ST.pp.48, 104)

Periyalvar and Andal

A native of Srivilliputtur (Ramnad dt.), Visnucitta or Periyalvar

devoted himself with the sacred service of offering flowers and garlands to
Visnu, enshrined in the local temple. ‘Goda’ or Andal was his famous foundling
daughter, the garlands worn by whom were particularly acceptable to the
God; hence her name Sudikkodutta Goda or Goda who offered (garlands) to
the God after herself wearing them.’ The Pandya king of his time, according
to the hagiologies was Srivallabha, while the Alvar himself refers to him as
Nedudmaran. It is said that this king held a religious disputation in his court
and that Visnucitta, who won the prize of this disputation (porkilli or gold
tied in a cloth), converted the Pandya to Vaisnavism.

The Pandya king of the 8th century, who was converted to Vaisnavism,
may be identified with Maravarman Rajasimha I (740-765 A.D.) on the
ground that his predecessor, who bore the title ‘Maran’ or ‘Maravarman’,
was Arikesari Parankusa Maravarman (970-710 A.D.), who was converted
from Jainism to Saivism by Sambandar and hence was not a Vaisnava. This is
supported by epigraphical evidence too.8 (Madras Museum plates, IA XXII
pp.72-75) The date of the daughter of the Alvar, Andal, has been sought
to be fixed independently from certain astronomical details. The reference
to the simultaneous rise of the Venus and the setting of the Jupiter in the
first hours of the full moon day in the month of Margali occurring in the
Tiruppavai (verse 13), yield only one date in the 8th century, viz., the 18th
day of December 731 A.D. They also correspond to two days in the years
885 and 886 A.D. but it was already shown that such dates in the 9th
century are too late for the later Alvars.9 (M.Raghava Aiyangar, Alvarkal
Kalanilai. pp.79-81)

Periyalvar’s work is called ‘Periyalvar Tirumoli’ which includes a group

of 10 benedictory verses, well known as the Tiruppallandu. In this work the
Alvar gives out his soulful devotion to God in the form of the fondest love of
the mother for the frolicks of the babe; here the mother is Yasoda and the
babe Lord Krisna. In the 3rd ‘ten’ of the 3rd centum he regards the Gods
at Srirangam and Tiruvengadam as manifestations of Krishna.10 (Periya
Tirumoli 3-3-2-4) In verse 3 of this ‘ten’ Yasoda laments her hard-
heartedness in having sent her baby son, Krisna - ‘Madusudana, enshrined in
Srirangam, surrounded by big enduring walls and adorned by the Kaveri river
and flower gardens’ - to tend the cows. The 8th, 9th and 10th ‘tens’ of the
4th centum are entirely devoted to Srirangam. They are full of references
to the gardens and the natural beauty of Srirangam, watered by the Kaveri.
Verse e1 of the 8th ‘ten’ refers to the ghats of the Kaveri, where bathe
the ‘Todavattittuimaraiyor’ or ‘the cleanly dressed Srivaisnavas well-versed
in the Vedas’.11 (Todavatti seems to be a corruption of ‘dhautavastra.’)
Though this expression generally refers to the Vaisnava brahmins yet it is
interesting to note that a distinct branch of the arcakas of the Srirangam
temple, with duties in the sanctum sanctorum, was known by this name. The
Koil-Olugu refers to them by this name, and also that of Ullurar; perhaps to
begin with both were identical. Verse 2 mentions Srirangam inhabited by
Srivaisnavas, who performed Vedic sacrifices and fed their guests. Verse 8
again refers to the prakara walls. Verse 2 of the 9th ‘ten’ refers to the
Sriranga Mahatmya as it mentions Ranganatha reposing in the shrine facing
south for the sake of Vibhisana. Verse 6 of the 9th ‘ten’ refers to
Srirangam as a shrine which throws its effulgence in all directions and which
is inhabited by many Vaisnava devotees, ascetics, risis, nityasuris and people
from the surrounding tracts. From verse 11 we learn that Srirangam had
already attained fame as a shrine in the south and the north.

Andal, famed for her beauty, was struck with a real passion for the
God at Srirangam, unlike the other Alvars, who could only liked themselves
to a loving young woman; none but God Ranganatha would she marry, and
certainly not a mortal. In a verse of her Nacciyar Tirumoli she declared “If
ever a mortal man were chosen for me, O Cupid, be sure I will lay down my
life”.12 (Nacciyar Tirumoli, 1-5) Ranganatha, who had already chosen her as
His bride, commanded Periyalvar, in his dream, to bring his daughter to Him.
The father accordingly took Andal to Srirangam, where we are told the
loving devotee became one with the god. Much different from this general
account of the Guruparamparais is that of the Divyasuricaritam, whose
central theme is the marriage of Andal with Ranganatha, which is described
in the right epic fashion just like the marriage of Uraiyurvalli with the same
God in the Lakshmi Kavyam. The Caritam says that Periyalvar conducted the
marriage of his daughter, after obtaining the blessings of Nammalvar, who
was attended by the Alvars Poigai, Bhutam, Pey, Tirumalisai,
Tondaradippodi, Kulasekhara and Madurakavi; and that Tirumangaimannan,
who waylaid the marriage party consisting of Ranganatha, Andal and others,
was converted by the divine bridegroom. It is evident that this kavya makes
all the Alvars witness the marriage in order to glorify its theme. Periyalvar,
who was left alone returned to Srivilliputtur in great sorrow at the
separation, to which he has given the most pathetic expression in his
verses.13 (Periyalvar Tirumoli, 3-8 (10 vv).

The Tiruppavai and the Nacciyar Tirumoli are the two works of Andal.
The former has only 30 stanzas, which are devoted to the performance of a
ceremonial vrata by the peasant girls, in the early mornings of the month of
Margali, with the young Krisna in the fore. The latter has 14 ‘tens’, in which
she expresses her passionate love for Visnu. In the 7th ‘ten’, e.g., she
envies the conch in the left hand of the God because of its close association
with His lips. Verse 4 of the 11th ‘ten’, which is devoted to Srirangam
contains a reference to the storied houses and prakara walls, of Srirangam,
and verse 7 again refers to the mighty enclosing walls.

The Koil-Olugu, which like the Guruparamparai, calls the Pandya

contemporary of Periyalvar Vallabhadevan, says that he gave a lot of
treasure to God Alagiyamanavalan14 (This refers to the procession image of
Ranganatha and means ‘the beautiful bridegroom’. The recumbent mortar
image in the sanctum is called Periya Perumal.) of Srirangam as dowry, on
the occasion of the marriage of Andal, the daughter of his teacher, with
the God. It also says that the Pandya erected a shrine at Srirangam for
Andal (now called the Veli Andal Sannidhi or the Outer Andal shrine).15
(K.O. pp.23-24)

Tondaradippodi Alvar

Vipranarayana alias Tondaradippodi Alvar (Bhaktanghrirenu) was a

Vipranarayana alias Tondaradippodi Alvar (Bhaktanghrirenu) was a
native of Mandangudi, in the Tanjore district. As a great devotee of Visnu,
he migrated to Srirangam, pretty early in his life, and devoted himself with
the sacred service of providing garlands of basel and flowers for the use of
the God.16 (Tirumalai-45) It is said that Devadevi, a courtesan, who was
patronised by the Cola king at Uraiyur, approached this devotee with the
set purpose of seducing him from his unerring devotion and finally succeeded.
Once her vanity was gratified she no longer cared for poor Vipranarayana,
who, however, lingered at her doorstep. The Guruparamparai tells us that
Alagiyamanavalan of Srirangam took pity on him; and the divine pity
manifested itself quite ironically indeed, for the God did not resurrect him
from his fall, but egged him in his evil course by going to the courtesan’s
house one night and handing over to her a huge gold vessel belonging to the
temple while he represented Himself to be a servant of Vipranarayana
bearing his present to her. Thus did God restore to him his dignity in his
fall. The loss of the vessel, however, was found out the next morning, the
vessel itself traced and Devadevi imprisoned by the royal servants.
Vipranarayana to whom ultimately the crime was attributed, was also
imprisoned. It was then that he realised his folly and his inner nature could
discern the hand of God behind his inexplicable crime. He was subsequently
released when the God informed the king in a dream of His part in the
drama. It was after these trials that Vipranarayana became Tondaradippodi
Alvar and sang the pieces ‘Tirumalai’ and ‘Tiruppalli-elucci’ both devoted
exclusively to Srirangam.

According to the Vaisnava tradition Tondaradippodi Alvar was the

younger contemporary of Tirumangai Alvar. Both the Guruparamparai and the
Koil-Olugu say that when Tirumangai Alvar was constructing a prakara wall,
the place where Tondaradippodi used to sit and make garlands barred the
further progress of the wall; that Tirumangai spared the resort of
Tondaradippodi and made a deviation in the course of the wall; and that the
latter, out of gratitude for Tirumangai, christened the sickle in his hands
Arulamari (one of the titles of Tirumangaimannan).

Into the Tirumalai of 45 verses the Alvar has infused all the genuine
fervour of a fresh convert to the right conduct; the lowest of the lowly
positions he was in is contrasted with the real and lasting happiness flowing
from a loving devotion to God. In the opening verses he expresses his scant
regard for those materialistic people who do not worship Ranganatha. He
brings home the point when he says: “Better the dogs eat the food of those
who will not say (i.e., worship) Tiruvarangam of the beautiful gardens, where
hum the bees, where dance the peacocks, where sing cuckoos, whose tree
tops reach the clouds, and where dwells Ranganathan.17 (Tirumalai-14) In
verse 2 he declares that he would fondly adhere to the loving worship of the
God at Srirangam, ‘whose mouth is like coral and eyes like lotuses,’ and spurn
even the rulership of the kingdom of the Gods if it were offered to him. In
the succeeding verses he falls foul of rank materialism as well as the non-
Vaisnava sects of Buddhism, Jainism and Saivism. In verse 16 and Alvar tells
us of his own unholy past and he was resurrected by the beneficent God of
Srirangam. The same autobiographical detail we find mentioned also in verse
33. In verse 19 he gives us an accurate picture of the posture and position
of the reclining image of Ranganatha in the sanctum of the temple. It says:
“(Not only my heart but even) my body melts when I see the God of the sea
like hue reposing on the serpent couch, facing Lanka in the south, with His
back to the North, His feet extended towards the east and His head
pointing to the west”. The next verse describes the chest, the shoulders,
the eyes, the lips, the mouth and the beautiful crown of the Ranganatha
image. Verse 23 again exhibits the loving devotion of the Alvar born of his
personal and intimate association with the God. ‘How can I, the poorest of
the poor, ever forget the unique posture in which our benevolent Lord
Ranganatha is reposing in Srirangam of beautiful gardens lying in the midst of
the Kaveri (rivers) fowing on either side’. Verse 29 exemplifies the Vaisnava
canon of object surrender to the divine will in the most touching terms: ‘I
was not born in one of your holy shrines, I have not served on the ‘devadana’
lands, I have no relatives nor friends, I have not been thy devotee. O Most
Supreme One, Krisna of the hue of the clouds! I cry in despire; you are my
sole protector.’ The next seven verses are replete with this idea of the
Alvar, with all his loneliness and disqualifications, crying out for the mercy of
the God in the profoundest humility. In verse 38 the Alvar tells us that
saints and ascetics adorned the courtyard of the Srirangam temple. That
among such devotees were to be found members of the low castes also and
that worshippers belonging to divers creeds devoted themselves to the
service of Ranganatha without any distinction is clear from verses 42 and
43. This has been, especially in its early stages, one of the attractive
features of Vaisnavism; and that among the Alvars are to be reckoned a
woman, an untouchable, a king, brahmins and others is clear proof that
distinctions of caste, sex or status did (???????? 18. ST. p. 128-129) not
matter to these saints, whose only qualifications were loving devotion and
complete self-surrender to God.

The Tiruppalli-elucci, the Alvar’s other work of 11 stanzas is devoted

to the waking up of Ranganatha early in the morning. The facts that the
Alvar was a supplier of flowers to the temple, and that he sang the
Alvar was a supplier of flowers to the temple, and that he sang the
Tiruppalli-elucci, as well as his own name, Tondaradippodi, go to show beyond
doubt that he was actively engaged in the daily temple ritual, and was
perhaps devoted to doing personal services to the God. In verse 5 the Alvar
refers to Srirangam as the shrine that is worshipped by the Ceylonese king
(i.e., Vibhisana), a reference to the Stalamahatmya. In verse 8 he shows
his intimate acquaintance with the ritual of singing the aubade and the
paraphernalia of the cow, the vessels, the mirror, etc., associated with it.

Tiruppan Alvar

Tiruppan Alvar was so called because he belonged to the low caste of

panas or wandering bards, playing on the instrument known as yal. He was a
native of Uraiyur and great devotee of Visnu enshrined in Srirangam. Fully
conscious of his low birth he did not dare cross the Kaveri into Srirangam,
and it was his habit to sing the praise of Ranganatha in soulful melody from
the river Kaveri. The God, who was struck by his single minded devotion,
wanted to take him into His fold and ordered his devout brahmin servant,
Lokasaranga Muni to fetch the bard to His presence on his shoulders. The
Alvar, who considered it high sacrilege to step into the shrine, had to yield
to the divine command, and his loving devotion overflowed all bounds when he
stood face with the grand object of his dream. In his 10 beautiful verses
beginning with Amalanadipiran he describes to us the image of Ranganatha in
exquisite terms of intense love.

In each stanza the Alvar (Yogi-vaha) describes a part of the

Ranganatha image or its apparel as he saw and enjoyed it. In verse 1 he
says that the ‘lotus like feet of the God of Srirangam surrounded by high
walls’ had entered his eyes, as it were. In the 2nd verse he tells us that
his mind was fully taken up by the ‘gold-laced apparel or pitambara adorning
the legs and abdomen of the God reposing in Srirangam of sweet-smelling
gardens’. In the 3rd verse he says that he was deeply impressed by the
‘beautiful navel of Visnu from which sprang Brahma’. In the 4th verse he
mentions with equal zest, ‘the gold belt adorning the belly of the God of
Srirangam, where dance the peacocks to the tune provided by the bees’.
The next verse mentions the bejewelled chest of the God, where resides the
Goddess, Sri or Lakshmi. In the next verse the Alvar says that he was
resurrected by the God, whose neck swallowed (during the deluge) the entire
universe with all its contents’. In the next verse he tells us that the coral-
like red mouth of the God had appropriated all his thoughts to itself. In the
next verse he declares that ‘the wide and long, and bright and black eyes of
Ranganatha, with red streaks’ had turned him mad. In the 9th verse he is
beside himself at seeing such an image as a whole; he says: ‘Alas! The
endless and incomparable beauty of the divine frame, which is of the hue of
the blue-water-lily’, decorated by countless ornaments of precious metals
and pearls, has robbed away my mental stolidity.’ In the 10th verse he ends
by saying that having fed his eyes upon such a dear God - Alagiyamanavalan
- he would not look at anything else.

Tirumangai Alvar

Tirumangai (or Parakala) was, to begin with, a petty chieftain of

Alinadu in the Cola country. He loved and married Kumudavalli, the daughter
of a Vaisnava physician of Tirunangur, and with her led the life of a
munificent householder. Not only did he expend his all but dived his hands
deep into the state-coffers in his enthusiasm for helping the Vaisnava
devotees. The Cola had his erring feudatory arrested, though the latter
proved, at first, to be recalcitrant. The Guruparamparai says that he paid
off all the state dues in Kanci by the grace of Visnu. It appears that he
belonged to a family of highway robbers; and on this hereditary profession
the erstwhile chieftain fell back in order to meet the expenses of his
devotional activities. While he was thus engaged he waylaid a marriage
party, the bridegroom among whom was no other than Visnu
(Alagiyamanavalan of Srirangam), who whispered into his ear the sacred
mantra and thus converted him into a fervent Vaisnava devotee. Thereupon
Tirumangai undertook a wide pilgrimage in the course of which he visited a
very large number of Vaisnava shrines and sang their praises. The
Guruparamparai also credits him with having won over Tirugnanasambandar,
the great Saiva saint, in a religious disputation at Siyali. But the
Divyasuricaritam simply says that they met together in a friendly spirit and
departed. Finally he settled in Srirangam where he actively devoted himself
with the sacred service of repairs and additions to the temple; and once
more when his funds dwindled he did not hesitate to rob and plunder in order
to refill his coffers, though for a sacred cause. The prakara wall of
Srirangam which he raised, it is said, owed its existence to the gold image of
the Buddha in the Buddhist palli at Nagapattinam, which he plundered. That
he was a chieftain of Alinadu, a valiant commander of a small force of men
and horse, a munificent patron of Vaisnava devotees and such details
regarding his life can be gleaned from his own words. A lists of his title is
given by himself in one of his verses.19 (Periya Tirumoli 3-4-10)

It was mentioned above that the Vaisnava tradition regard, Tirumangai

as the last of the Alvars. In view of the fact that according to the self-
same tradition many of the later Alvars were contemporaries the normal
inference would be that this Alvar survived the rest. On the basis of the
statement of the Guruparamparai that there was an interval of 200 years
between the last of the Alvars and the first of the Acaryas and working
from the known date of Ramanuja we come to the 8th century for
Tirumangai. It is significant that the Alvar mentions in his ‘ten’ on
Paramesvara Vinnagaram the names of three villages, where Nandivarman II
Pallavamalla (715-775 A.D.) won victories over his Pandya foe, viz., Mannai,
Nelveli and Kalidurgam.20 (Ibid. 2-9-3-, 5 and 8) The victories are
referred to as past events. In some of his verses the Alvar hints at his
growing old age.21 (The ‘tens’ on Badari and Tirunaraiyur.) His prodigious
tours and compositions are in themselves fairly strong testimony to his fairly
long life. It is likely that the Alvar was living in the last years of the reign
of the Pallava king mentioned above or perhaps survived him.22 (For details
of the controversial points, e.g., the contemporaneity of Tirumangai with
Sambandar, see M.Raghava Aiyangar (op.cit.pp.84-153); Dr.S.Krishnaswami
Aiyangar on the date of Tirumangai Alvar (IA. XXXV. Pp.228 ff.); Sen
Tamil vols.III (p.483), IV (p.61) and XXI (pp.5-6); Tamil Varalaru by
K.S.Srinivasa Pillai, (pp.137-143) )

Next to Nammalvar Tirumangai Alvar is the most prolific contributor

to the 4,000 verses that go to make up the Prabandam collection. The form
and content of his Periya Tirumoli resemble in a very large measure those of
the Tiruvaimoli of Nammalvar, and it is the orthodox view that his six works,
viz., Periya Tirumoli, Tirukkurundandagam, Tirunedundandagam,
Tiruvelukkurrirukkai, Periya Tirumaalai and Siriya Tirumaalai form the
auxiliaries of the four works of Nammalvar just as there are six Vedangas
for the four Vedas. The ideas of absolute self-surrender and loving devotion
to God flow more or less in the same channels as in the Tiruvaimoli. He
resembles Tondaradippodi Alvar when he confesses his own past sins and begs
for divine grace in the profoundest humility. It is clear from his works that
he visited a very large number of Vaisnava shrines, to each of which he
dedicated a ‘ten’ or more in his Periya Tirumoli.

Tirumolis 4,5,6,7 and 8 of the 5th centum of the above work are
exclusively devoted to Srirangam. Each of the ten verses of the 4th Tirumoli
describes an achievement of Visnu in the first two lines and the natural
beauty of His shrine surrounded by the rivers and gardens in the next.
These verses very much resemble those of Tirumalisai Alvar in the
Tiruccandaviruttam, referring to Srirangam. In verse 5 of this Tirumoli
there is a reference to the prakara walls. Verse 7 refers to Srirangam
‘fragrant with the scent of the smoke issuing, on the one hand, from the tall
houses, where are burnt the scented wood like the ‘aghil’, etc., and, on the
other, from the sacrificial fires kindled by the Vedic brahmanas’, thus
testifying to the fact that Srirangam was active and much advanced in both
the secular and religious spheres. Verse 9 again refers to the prakara walls.
The 5th Tirumoli is concerned with the familiar theme of the mother
sympathising with her lovelorn daughter. Here the Alvar exclaims that the
madness caused in the maiden by the God or Tiruvarangam could not
adequately explained. Verse 5 is typical of the rest. These verses again
resemble those of Nammalvar handling the same theme with reference to
Sriranganatha. In each verse of the 6th Tirumoli the Alvar describes an
achievement of Visnu, in one of His avatars and says that he saw Him at
Tennarangam. The Tirumolis 7 and 8 are likewise taken up by an enumeration
of the qualities and achievements of Visnu enshrined in Srirangam.

According to the Vaisnava tradition Tirumangai Alvar made

arrangements for the recitation of Tiruvaimoli in the Srirangam temple. The
Koil-Olugu tells us much about the connections of Tirumangai Alvar with the
Srirangam temple. It says that while Tirumangai was residing at Srirangam
Madurakavi was glorifying the name of his departed guru Nammalvar by
installing his image at Tirunagari and conducting many festivals for him and
was also going over to the Srirangam temple often to look after its affairs
(Srikaryam). During a certain Tirukkartikai Mahatsava Tirumangai sang the
Tirunedundandagam and his other works in the presence of the Perumal and
the Nacciyar (goddess), illustrating them with gestures (abhinaya). The
Perumal, who was mightily pleased with the Alvar, asked him what He could
do for him. To this the Alvar replied that it was his great desire that H
should hear both the Vedas and the Tiruvaimoli of Nammalvar recited on the
next Adyayanotsava days23 (i.e., ekadasi of the suklapaksa or bright half
of the moth of Margali.) and grant the Tiruvaimoli a place of equality with
the Vedas. The Perumal immediately granted the latter request and agreed
to hear the recitations. A divine communication or Tirumugappattaiyam was
sent to Tirunagari informing Nammalvar of the Perumal’s intention.
Consequently Madurakavi left Tirunagari along with the image of his guru and
reached Srirangam on the day preceding that of the Adyayanotsava. He was
welcomed by Tirumangai Alvar and others. When Nammalvar was taken into
the sanctum of the temple the Perumal welcomed him and called him ‘Nam-
Alvar’ or ‘our Alvar’. This name stuck and gradually replaced his proper name
Satakopa. Under the commands of the Perumal the image of Nammalvar was
housed in the shrine of Tirukkuralappan, which was previously serving as a
sandhya-matam.24 (K.O.p.10) With the next dawn commenced the
sandhya-matam.24 (K.O.p.10) With the next dawn commenced the
festivities of the Tiruadyayanotsava in the Alagiyamanavalan-tirumantapa of
the temple. While the Veda were recited in the daytime Madurakavi,
representing his guru recited the Tiruvaimoli during the nights; and these
recitations continued for ten consecutive days and nights. On the 10th day,
when both the recitations were brought to a close, the Perumal seated
Nammalvar on His own seat, did him such other high honours and sent him
back to Tirunagari along with many presents. Madurakavi and Tirumangai took
the image of Nammalvar to Tirunagari with great eclar. The Koil-Olugu says
that thenceforth the image was brought over to Srirangam from Tirunagar
for every annual Adyayana festival. From the same account it is know that
Ramanuja discontinued this practice and installed an image of Nammalvar in
the Srirangam temple.

Secondly the name of Tirumangai Alvar is prominently associated with

some structural additions to the Srirangam temple. The 4th outer enclosure
is called after him Alinadan tiruvidi. Both the Divyasuricaritam and the Koil-
Olugu speak of his building activities. The caritam says that
Tirumangaimannan who did not find enough funds to finish the construction of
the third Prakara wall that had been left incomplete, hit upon the plan of
plundering the Buddhist Palli at Nagapattinam. From the treasure so derived
he not only completed the wall but constructed many paddy granaries, the
temple kitchen, walls and gopuras. The golden image of the Buddhist palli,
however, did not suffice to meet the expenditure of his ‘six fold Kainkaryas’
and ultimately the sculptors and the host of labourers began to clamour for
their wages. Tirumangai promised to pay them in Tiruvellarai, on northern
bank of the Coleroon, and when they were crossing that river in a boat he
had that boat upset and thus found an easy disposal of an otherwise difficult
case with the thought that those unpaid labourers would reach heaven,
having lost their lives in divine service.25 (Divyasuricaritam (Tamil translation
by Ettayapuram Vidwan Sami Aiyangar Swami) pp.122-138.) This incident
has already been referred to in connection with the name ‘Kollidam’ and it
was said that it also find mention in the Guruparamparai and the
Prappannamrtam. The Koil-Olugu credits the Alvar with the following: (1) A
100 pillared mantapa in the northeast of the Rajamahendran enclosure (i.e.,
the second enclosure surrounding the sanctum), wherein was to be conducted
the annual Adayayanotsava, (2) the walls of the Kulasekharan enclosure
(i.e., the third enclosure surrounding the sanctum) with the northern and
southern gateways and gopuras, (3) the tirumantapa with its procession path
in the south-west, and the kitchen halls in the south-east of that enclosure,
(4) the wall encircling the fourth enclosure with its northern and southern
gopuras, and a raised structure and a tower in the northern gopura for
gopuras, and a raised structure and a tower in the northern gopura for
Eduttakai Alagiyasinga Nainar, (5) the store house in the southwest of the
fourth enclosure and a granary to its north, and a huge procession path
extending from the south to the north of that enclosure, (6) The flooring of
the procession path along the fourth enclosure; and (7) the building of the
Dasavatara temple and the institution of a cremation ghat to its north,
which the Alvar named Padiyavalanturai or Tirumangaimannan’s ghat.

Srirangam, an active Vaisnava shrine about the 8th century A.D.

From the references to Srirangam by the Alvars, mostly belonging to

the 8th century, we come to know many points of interest to a historical
account of the shrine. It is significant that while the latter Alvars refer to
the Prakara walls we do not find any such reference among the works of the
early Alvars. The various descriptive references made by Kulasekhara Alvar
to the reclining image in the sanctum of the Srirangam temple (Periya
Perumal) adorned with flowers and garlands unmistakably go to show that
actual worship was being conducted in his time by a set of arcakas attached
to the temple. Periyalvar’s references to the Tondavattittuimaraiyor is
significant. Tondaradippodi Alvar’s references to the image and the idea
behind his Tiruppalli-elucci point to the same conclusion. Again Tiruppan
Alvar’s references to the gold-belt and the pittambara of the sanctum image
leave no doubt that worship was accompanied with the adornment of the
image. Tirumangai Alvar not only contributed largely to the physical growth
of the temple but made arrangements for the recitation of the Tiruvaimoli
therein. The mention of the courtyard of Alagiyamnayalan, where assemble
Srivaisnava devotees of God, ‘the courtyard of the Srirangam temple made
sloughy by the tears shed by the hymnists’ and ‘the wandering devotees of
Ranganatha preaching the right conduct’ in the verses of Kulasekhara paints
an unfailing picture of a temple already alive as a human institution with the
daily puja, etc. being conducted in the sanctum and the singing of devotional
pieces by groups of Srivaisnavas in the courtyard, a picture of the South
Indian Vaisnava temple of the 8th century. Add to these the references to
ascetics thronging the shrine and the wealthy householders living in storied
houses, evidently inside the prakara walls, and we see raised before us an
image of the temple city of the same period.

Copyright © 2005-2007, All rights reserved.
Events of Today



A In this chapter are traced the fortunes of the
I Srirangam temple covering the period from the 10th to the 12th centuries,
from A.D.924, the date of the earliest Cola inscription in the temple, to
M A.D.1178, the close of the reign of Rajadhiraja II, when the Cola decline
N began and the Pandyas rose to power. This was an eventful period in the
U history of the temple. Srirangam became the headquarters of the Vaisnava
movement under the resourceful Acaryas, the greatest of whom was
Ramanuja. The latter was both the Vaisnava pontiff and the warden of the
temple. We have numerous inscriptions in the temple of the Cola kings of
this period detailing their gifts and benefactions. They do not throw any
direct light on the activities of the Acaryas, for which tradition as recorded
in the Guruparamparai is the only source. In this period the temple grew in
organisation, wealth and resources.

Cola inscriptions in the temple of the 10th century A.D.

The earliest Cola inscription in the Srirangam temple is dated in the

17th year of Parantaka I (A.D.907-955). It registers a gift of 30 gold
pieces for a permanent lamp, 40 for camphor, one for cotton wick besides
the gift of a silver lamp-stand made to the temple. The Sabha of
Tiruvarangam took charge of the endowments. The donor was one Sankaran
Ranasingan.1 (72 of 1892; SII.IV.519.) The next inscription is dated in the
38th year of the same king and it registers a gift of 100 Kalanju of god for
the Tirumanjanam (holy bath) of Sriranganatha by the Sahasradarai (‘1000
holed’) plate. The donor was one Pallavaraiyan. This gift too was entrusted
to the Sabha of Tiruvarangam.2 (71 of 1892; SII.IV.518.) Another
inscription of this king dated in his 41st year records a gift of two plots of
land by a certain Acciyan Bhattan Sri Vasudevan Cakrapani of Peruvengur (in
Vila-nadu) for cake offerings to the God of Srirangam on the ekadasi day
during the Panguni festival in the temple.3 (95 of 1936-37.)

The Anbil plates of Parantaka II or Sundara Cola, who reigned from

A.D.956 to A.D.973, record the grant of land which the king made to a
Brahmana minister of his called Aniruddha, a native of Premagriha (Anbil
near Srirangam).4 (E1.XV.pp.44 ff.; K.A.Nilakanta Sastri The Colas (II
edn.) p.149) The plates say that the donee came of a family of great
devotees of Ranganatha of Srirangam and refer to the particular attachment
of his mother and grandfather to the God. The next record is dated in the
15th year of Uttama Cola (A.D.984) and registers a gift of gold by
Sridharan Kumaran, a Malayali of Ravimangalam in Valluva-nadu, a subdivision
of Melai-nadu, for providing a lamp with ghee and with Bhimaseni-karpuram
in front of the God of Srirangam (Tiruvarngattu Perumanadigal.5 (65 of
1938-39) The practice of burning lamps with ghee, with camphor dissolved in
it, mentioned here, is noteworthy. Three fragmentary records of Rajaraja I
(A.D. 985-1014) record gifts of gold to the temple, the details of which
are lost.6 (341-343 of 1917-18.)

Rajamahendra Cola, a benefactor of the temple

The name of Rajamahendra is prominently associated with the

Srirangam temple as the builder of the second prakara wall and the second
enclosure itself is known as Rajamahendran tiruvidi. Who is this
Rajamahendra? He is not to be identified with Mahendravarman Pallava as
was sought to be done by K.V.Subrahmanya Aiyar7 (IA.XL.p.134.) but with
Rajamahendra Rajakesari, son of Rajendra II (1052-1064).8 (K.A.Nilakanta
Sastri: The Colas (II edn.) p.247.) He was a crown-prince and predeceased
his father in 1063. It is quite likely that he was acting as the regent at
the capital while his father was engaged in the distant wars with the
Calukyas. That he was carrying on the peaceful administration of the country
is attested by the Kalingattupparani as well as his prasastis. The Koil-Olugu,
which wrongly places Rajamahendra Cola before Koil-Olugu, which wrongly
places Rajamahendra Cola before Tirumangai Alvar,9 (This is obviously
because Rajamahendra Cola is associated with the first prakara and
Tirumangai with the third.) says that he laid the pavement of the sanctum
thus putting a stop to water oozing on to the surface whenever there were
floods in the Kaveri and constructed the second prakara wall, and that the
second enclosure is known after him. This tradition finds confirmation in the
Vikramasolan Ula, composed by Ottakkuttan, who lived during the reigns of
Vikrama Cola, Kulottunga II and Rajaraja II. In this work the poet says
that Rajamendra made for the God at Srirangam a serpent couch set with
several gems, but makes no mention of the construction of a prakara wall by
the Cola. Whatever be the discrepancy between these two traditions
regarding the benefactions there is no mistaking the fact that the
benefactor in question was none other than Rajamahendra Cola.

The First Acaryas

In the period of the first great Colas the Vaisnava Acaryas,
particularly Ramanuja, were quite active in Srirangam. These saints are
usually placed in two groups, viz., the Acaryas from Nathamuni to Ramanuja
and those who succeeded Ramanuja. It was stated above that according to
Vaisnava tradition there was an interval of about 200 years between the
last of the Alvars and the first of the Acaryas. During this interval the
prabandas of the Alvars are said to have fallen into oblivion. The Koil-Olugu
indicates that subsequent to the good days in which the Perumal of
Srirangam heard every year the Tiruvaimoli recitations inaugurated by
Tirumangai Alvar bad days followed in which the prabandas fell into
obscurity, religious classes and discourses had ceased and Nammalvar no
longer came to Srirangam all the way from Tirunagari to hear the Tiruvaimoli
recited. What is the explanation of this interval of obscurity and inanition of
Vaisnavism? During this period, i.e., roughly from the 8th century to the
10th we do not find in South India any remarkable social or political upheaval
that might have told adversely upon the peaceful religious pursuits of the
Vaisnava teachers in temples. It was the period of Cola ascendaney
subsequent to the decline of the Pallavas and the Pandyas. The interval of
religious decadence,’ it would be seen, is purely a fiction created by the
latter day hagiographer who wanted to tell a continuous tale and hence had
to offer some sort of explanation for a period in which no saint flourished.
After Tirumangai Alvar, who lived in the 8th century, the next important
Vaisnava teacher, viz., Nathamuni came in the 10th century and it is futile
to find an explanation for this gap.

Nathamuni and Srirangam

Nathamuni, the son of Isvara Bhatta, was a Vaisnava devotee of

Tirunarayanapuram or Kattumannar Koil (South Arcot district) and was
engaged in serving Visnu enshrined in the local temple. There he heard from
some brahmanas from the west (i.e. Kerala) a ‘ten’ from the Tiruvaimoli
beginning with Aravamudu. At Tirunagari he heard the ten verses beginning
with Kanninunciruttambu, sung by Madurakavi in praise of Nammalvar. Anxious
to get the entire Tiruvaimoli and not finding anyone who knew the whole by
heart he did penance invoking Nammalvar for a long time. To reward his yoga
Nammalvar appeared before him and gave him not only a kosa or copy of his
work, the Tiruvaimoli, but those of all the other Alvar and initiated him into
the Vaisnava darsana. The gradual disappearance of the prabandas and their
sudden reappearance through the efforts of Nathamuni need not be taken
seriously. According to the Vaisnava tradition Nathamuni first collected
together the various Prabandas of the Alvars and made arrangements for
their recitations in the Srirangam temple; and it will be easily seen that the
orthodox account of his yogic feat is nothing but an exaggeration of his real
and substantial work in connection with the Vaisnava anthology the

Adhering to the Vaisnava tradition of an interval of 200 years

between the disappearance of the Prabandas and their reappearance we get
the 10th century as the age in which Nathamuni must have flourished. Kali
3924 or A.D.823, the date given by the Koil-Olugu for the birth of
Nathamuni, has to be rejected because it brings him very near the Alvars
and hence contradicts the above traditions.

Referring to the activities of Nathamuni in Srirangam the Koil-Olugu

says that he organised regular classes in which he expounded the import of
the Prabandas and asked his pupils to propagate them in turn. To his goes
the credit of having made the verses of the Nalayirapprabandam a living
force among the Srivaisnavas by incorporating them into the daily routine of
an orthodox Vaisnava as well as that of a Vaisnava temple. As a result
these verses, though of considerable antiquity, have come to stay more as a
religious institution being recited in gostis in Vaisnava temples by successive
generations of Bhattas than as a piece of classical literature surviving only in
books and known only to antiquarians or historians. The Tevaram hymns form
the Saivat counterpart. We are told that Nathamuni fixed the times of
upakarma and utsarjana (i.e. commencement and temporary suspension of the
recitation of the sacred hymns) for the Tiruvaimoli, laid down the procedure
regarding the recitations etc., to be adopted in the Karthikai festival and
the Adyayanotsava, grouped the various prabandas into the Mudalayiram,
Iyarpa, etc., and counted them to be 4,000, and made arrangements for
recitations of the other Tirumolis over and above the Tiruvaimoli, in what is
called the Tirumoli festival created by him. Nathamuni himself recited these
verses, illustrating them with gestures, during the Tirumoli and Tiruvaimoli
festivals, and trained his two nephews Kilaiyagattalvan and
Melaiyagattalvan10 (These names mean ‘Alvan of the eastern house’ and
‘Alvan of the western house’, respectively) to sing and dance like himself
during those festivals. These two began the line of the successive Arayar of
the Srirangam temple with distinct duties and appropriate honours in the
presence of God during festivals. The practices regarding the recitations of
the Prabandas started by Nathamuni in the Srirangam temple were followed
in other Vaisnava temples. Srirangam was rapidly becoming the accredited
headquarters of the Vaisnava movement in South India.
Ramanuja and Srirangam

After Nathamuni Uyyakondar and Manakkal Nambi, in succession,

exercised control over the Vaisnava darsana from Srirangam. The successor
of Manakkal Nambi was Alavandar, the grandson of Nathamuni. The next
pontiff was the great Ramanuja. The Guruparamparai credits him with a long
life of 120 years, from S.939 (indicated by the chronogram dhirlabda) or
A.D. 1017 to S 1059 (dharmonasta) or A.D.1137.

Ramanuja was born at Sriperumbudur, near Madras. From his native

place he migrated, as a lad, to Tirupputkuli, near Kanci, to prosecute his
studies in the Vedanta under one Yadavaprakasa. As the studies advanced
differences developed between the teacher and his precocious pupil and the
latter left for Kanci, where he settled down as a householder and devoted
himself to the divine service of supplying water for purposes of puja to the
shrine of Devapperumal. Alavandar, who was aware of the talents of
Ramanuja, chose him as his successor and sent Periya Nambi to Kanci to
fetch him to Srirangam. Alavandar, however, was no more when Ramanuja
came to Srirangam, and the later was struck with remorse when he saw the
lifeless body of the former stretched on the funeral pyre. In utter despair
Ramanuja left Srirangam, it would appear, even without worshipping the
Perumal enshrined there and returned to Kanci. Subsequently the Vaisnava
preceptors of Srirangam joined together and, with a view to fulfill the desire
of Alavandar, once again sent Periya Nambi to Kanci to bring back Ramanuja.
Meanwhile Ramanuja had been told by Perarulala Perumal, the God of Kanchi,
that Periya Nambi was the guru at whose feet he was to seek spiritual
salvation. Without losing any more time he left Kanci, where they stayed
together for a short time. During this period domestic quarrels arose and
the teacher quietly left his pupil and returned to Srirangam. Ramanuja, who
knew that his wife was the cause of this upshot, renounced his family and
became a sanyasin. Immediately disciples flocked round him and the most
important of these were Mudaliyandan and Kurattalvan. The Vaisnavas of
Srirangam welcomed this news and this time they sent the Arayar of the
temple, well known as Tiruvarangapperumal Arayar, to fetch Ramanuja to
their shrine. The Arayar succeeded and finally Ramanuja came to Srirangam.
The Guruparamparai narrates his entry into the shrine a well as the divine
welcome that was accorded to him in a right orthodox fashion, and the
grandeur of the manipravala style adopted is indeed inimitable. The God
Alagiyamanavalan bestowed upon him the title of Udayavar or ‘possessor’ (of
the Ubhaya vibhuti aisvaryam, i.e., the wealth consisting of nitya vibhuti or
eternal bliss and leela vibhutin or wordly happiness) and asked him to
administer the affairs of the temple.

Reforms in the Temple

From this point the Koil-Olugu begins a long and detailed recital of the
reforms introduced and the administrative arrangements made by Udayavar
in connection with the affairs of temple, while the Guruparamparai dismisses
these with a few generalised statements. From his gadi in the Ceran mutt in
the north street of the Trivikraman enclosure (i.e., the north Uttara
street) Udayavar assumed control over the administration of both the
darsana (doctrine) and the temple. He began with a thorough inspection of
the store-house and the treasury and daily made searching inquiries into the
routine expenditure involved and the rights claimed by the arcakas and
others with duties in the temple. This detailed investigation became
intolerable to some of the temple servants, one of whom coerced his wife to
serve poisoned food to Udayavar while on his daily rounds for begging alms.
The honest wife obeyed her husband but cleverly indicated to the begging
ascetic the nature of the alms by circumambulating him after having parted
with the aims, which was not her usual practice. Udayavar suspected
something and threw away the poisoned food. This is mentioned as an
instance and Udayavar had to face considerable opposition to his scheme of
purification. The Olugu says that consequently he left Srirangam and lived in
Tiruvellarai for two years. The better sense of the temple servants
ultimately prevailed and Tiruvarangapperumal Arayar fetched Udayavar back
to Srirangam. Now he had to face the intractable high priest of the temple,
Periya Koil Nambi, who would not brook subordination to him or accept his
schemes of reconstruction. Kurattalvan, the devout disciple of Udayavar,
was, however, able to bring Periya Koil Nambi to the right path. Nambi now
became the fervent disciple of Udayavar, under the name Amudan - well
known as Tiruvarangattamudanar - and composed the Ramanuja-nurrandadi, a
centum in praise of Ramanuja. He also surrendered his office as high priest
and his exclusive right to read out the puranas in the temple to Udayavar.
The latter had to face no more troubles and he executed his plan of
reconstruction unhindered. The following is a summary of the reforms and
administrative arrangements effected by him.

(1) He appointed Akalanga Nattalvan, his disciple, to inquire into the incomes
from the temple lands. The latter was a Cola chieftain, who is said to have
become a disciple of Udayavar after his return from Tiruvellarai. The
Nattalvan or Nadalvan is mentioned in several records of the time of
Rajadhiraja II (acc.1163) and Kulottunga III (acc.1178) under the name
Virrirundan Seman.11 (20 of 1937-38, pt.II, para 41; 267-269 of 1926-
30, pt.II, para 24; and 73 and 275 of 1936-37, pt.II, page 71.) If he
had been actually a disciple of Udayavar he must have long survived him. It
is also likely that the chronicler of the Olugu made the local chieftain a
disciple of Udayavar to glorify the Acarya.

(2) The shrine of Dhanvantri, which had long been neglected and gone out of
use, was renovated and an image of Dhanvantri or the Divine Physician was
installed therein, taking advantage, it is said, of a slight indisposition of the
God caused by the offering of naval or jambu fruits and curd rice by
Mudaliyandan. He placed his disciple Garudavahana Bhatta in charge of the
shrine and made arrangements for the supply of milk and medicinal decoction
(kasaya) to the God every night. The institution of the Arogyasala or the
Dhanvantri shrine is even now remembered as one of the chief reforms of
Udayavar in the Srirangam temple. From his days the successive managers
of this shrine have been known by the title of Garudavahana Bhatta.11a (An
inscription of Kulottunga I (62 of 1892; SII. III.70) refers to Arayan
Garudavahan alias Kalingarayar.)

(3) He removed all the Vaikhanasa priests from the temple and firmly
established the system of worship described in the Parameswara samhita of
the Pancaratra agama. He created a new set of priests known as Bhagavata

(4) The condition of the different seals, viz. The Garuda seal and the seals of
the Discus (Cakra) and the Conch (Sankha), under whose authority many
rights were exercised, and the state of accounts of the temple were found
to be in great disorder. Udayavar caused a reshuffling of the ownership of
these seals; he kept the seal of the Discus to himself, left the seal of the
Conch under the control of the Bhagavata Nambis, and allowed the Garuda
seal to continue under the Talaiyiduvar or Stanattar. He also reorganised
the accounts and placed them under the control of two persons with distinct

(5) The most important reform he effected was the complete reorganisation of
the temple services and groups of temple servants. Before the days of
Udayavar all the duties connected with the temple were divided among five
groups of servants, viz., Kovanavar, Kodavar, Koduvaleduppar, Paduvar and
Talaiyiduvar. According to the Koil-Olugu these five groups were in existence
before the days of Tirumangaimannan.12 (KO.p.46-7) Having in mind,
perhaps, the rapidly growing volume of the temple services Udayavar divided
these into 10 main groups of Brahmana servants and 10 groups of Sudra
these into 10 main groups of Brahmana servants and 10 groups of Sudra
servants. Three other groups were also created and their duties fixed. The
entire scheme came to be well known as Udayavar tittam.

(6) Certain important changes and additions were made in the procedure and
conduct of the annul adyayanotsava that added much lustre to the festival
as a whole. From the days of Tirumangai Alvar it was the custom for the
temple parijanas to fetch Nammalvar from the distant Tirunagari to witness
the Tiruvaimoli and other recitations during the above festival. Taking
advantage of the impossibility of bringing Nammalvar from Tirunagari on a
certain Adyayanotsava, perhaps due to heavy floods in the Kaveri, Udayavar
installed the image of Nammalvar in the Srirangam temple and stopped the
procedure of bringing the Alvar all the way from Tirunagari.

(7) He also installed in the temple the images of the Alvars, Andal and
Nathamuni and made arrangements for the celebration of many festivities in
their honour like taking them in procession to the Perumal on the days of
their natal asterims.

(8) He laid down extensive regulations with regard to the recitations of the
Divyaprabandas and in this he seems to have followed largely the lead of
Nathamuni. In his days a new addition was made to the Prabandam
collections and that was the Ramanuja-nurrandadi of 108 stanzas.

(9) He instituted a huge cattleshed in Solanganallur, on the northern bank of

the Coleroon, for the supply of milk to the temple. He also installed there
the image of Krisna as guarandian deity. He had a small gosala or cowshed
erected in the south-eastern corner of the Citra street, where he stationed
a few cows, so that milk may be had if required suddenly for purposes of
worship, etc.

(10) He had the daily routine of temple worship conducted strictly according to
the injunctions of the Pacaratra Agama; made detailed arrangements for the
celebrations of all festivities for the Perumal and the Alvars, and conducted
the daily, fortnightly, monthly, annual, and the great utsavas or mahotsavas
with grandeur and thus glorified the name of Srirangam.

Meanwhile Udayavar had fully equipped himself with the Sastras and
scriptures the Vedanta and the Vaisnava darsana as the disciple of old
veterans in the field like Tirukkottiyur Nambi, Tirumalaiyandan,
Tiruvarangapperumal Arayar, Tirumalai Nambi and others. Then he
proceeded to commit to writing his own interpretations of the Vedic texts
proceeded to commit to writing his own interpretations of the Vedic texts
based on the Vaisnava doctrine-the Visistadvaita-and his explanations of
that doctrine. With the help of Kurattalvan he wrote down his monumental
works, viz. The Sribhasyam, the Vedanta Dipam, the Vedanta-saram and
the Gita Bhasyam. Having achieved so far the guru wanted to commence a
tour of religious disputation - a digvijaya - and establish the supremacy of
the Vaisnava doctrine in all directions. With the permission of Periya Perumal
(the mula beram) of Srirangam he appointed Mudaliyandan to exercise
supreme control over the affairs of the temple, and started on such a tour
in the company of Kurattalvan. The Guruparamparai credits him with a tour
of all India. When he came to Tirupati there was dispute raging in that
shrine whether the God there was Visnu or Skanda. Udayavar appeared as
the arbiter and decided the case in favour of the Vaisnavas. Then he
returned to Srirangam, where he settled down once more as the head of the
Vaisnava darsana. Quite pleased with the way in which Mudaliyandan had
looked after the temple during his absence he reappointed him in the position
of supreme command over the temple affairs. “Thus was Udayavar
superintending and controlling the temple administration and the Vaisnava
doctrine for 60 caturmasas in the sacred shrine of Tiruvarangam, himself
being worshipped by 70 jiyas, 12,000 ekangis, 74 Acarya purusas and
innumerable Srivaisnavas.”13 (KO.p.104)

The Cola persecution and retreat into the Hoysala country

The peaceful life of Ramanuja in Srirangam was disturbed when the

Cola king, with a strong partiality for Saivism, insisted on Ramanuja and his
followers subscribing to the doctrine “there is none greater than Siva” -
Sivat parataram nasti. Ramanuja felt his position in Srirangam unsafe and
hence betook himself to the west. i.e. Mysore. In this period the Mysore
country had just been freed by the Hoysalas from the Cola hold and it is
natural that the Vaisnava teacher should have gone there for asylum. Periya
Nambi and Kurattalvan, who represented their Acarya in the royal court,
upheld the supremacy of Visnu, but the Cola was not prepared for
arguments. He compelled them to write down Sivat paratarm nasti.
Kurattalvan wrote it down but immediately beneath it also wrote Drona masti
tatah param, meaning ‘drona is greater than Siva,’ thus punning upon the
word Siva, which means both the God Siva and a small measure, drona being
a bigger one. This was intolerable to the Cola and he ordered Periya Nambi
and Kurattalvan to be blinded. The aged Periya Nambi could not bear the
torture and he died. Kurattalvan, who survived, retired to Tirumalirumsolai.
Ramanuja stayed in the Mysore country for 12 years, enjoying according to
the Vaisnava tradition, royal favour. He was staying in Tirunarayanapuram or
Melkote with his 52 devout disciples when news was brought from Srirangam
by Maronrilla Maruthi Ciriyandan that the persecuting Cola, dubbed
Krimikantha Cola, was no more. This enabled Ramanuja to return to

Kulottunga I (1070-1120 A.D.)

Krimikantha Cola is generally identified with Kulottunga I (1070-1120

A.D.14 (See K.A.Nilakanta Sastri, Colas. Pp.295-96, 300, and 644, for
different views.) Some scholars would prefer to identify him with
Adhirajendra, who had a short reign of less than a year (in 1070) and who
was killed in the course of a popular uprising. But according to Vaisnava
tradition Ramanuja lived as an exile in the Mysore country for 12 years at
the close of which he returned to Srirangam on hearing of the death of
Krimikantha. Adhirajendra did not rule for 12 years, and it is a sheer
impossibility to crowd the many achievements of Ramanuja in exile into the
short period of less than a year of the reign of Adhirajendra. If on this
ground the identification of Krimikantha with Kulottunga I is correct the date
of the return of Ramanuja to Srirangam is to be placed round about 1120

Though it is true to say that the Cola monarchs were ardent patrons
of Saivism it need not be concluded from this nor from the account of the
persecution of Ramanuja that there was a general persecution of the
Vaisnavas and the Vaisnava temples in the Cola period. From the Cola
inscriptions we know that they extended their patronage to both the Saiva
and Vaisnava temples. But kings were often victims to advisers and favourite
dogmas and sometimes the rule of general toleration was broken. There are
several inscriptions of Kulottunga I in the Srirangam temple.15 (61 of 1892,
SII. IV, 508, 62 of 1892; SII. III.70, and 117-127 & 129-132 of
1938-39 (ARE); also pt.II. para 18.) One mentions the king by his title,
Jayadhara, and his minister Vanadhiraja, who figure as the donor.16 (56 of
1938-39.) Another, dated in his 13th year, refers to Senapati
Virarajendra Adiyaman, who made a gift of land for a flower garden to the
temple.17 (118 of 1938-39) Two more military officers of the king figure
as donors in other records. One is Arigandadevan Ayarkolundinar alias
Senapatigal Ganagikondasola-Munaiyadarayar of Kottur in Arumolideva
Valanadu, who figures as the donor of a flower garden, named after him.
The same person also donated a lamp.18 (123 of 1938-39.) The other was
Senapatigal Vira Cola Munaiyadarayar, who made a grant of 50 kalanju of
gold for the recitation of the Tiruppalli-elucci and Tiruvaimoli by five
nimantakaras (temple servants).19 (61 of 1892.) This epigraph is dated in
the king’s 15th year. Another epigraph, dated in his 18th year, records the
provision of 6 ! kasu (gold pieces) made by Arayan Garudavahan alias
Kalingarayar for offerings on three nights when the text Tettarundiral20
(The second ‘ten’ of the Perumal Tirumoli by Kulasekhara Alvar begins with
these words.) was recited during the festivals in the months of Aippasi and
Panguni. The Malyala officers of the king, belonging to the Perudanam and
sirudanam, made a gift of a chauri called Ayiravan (with a gold handle) for
service to God Anantanarayanaswamin, who “was pleased to recline at
Srirangan”.21 (130 of 1938-39.) It is significant that a number of generals
and officers of Kulottunga I figure as the donors of the Srirangam temple.
This is unlikely if the king had been a Saiva fanatic.

In the present state of our knowledge and with the traditional account
of the Guruparamparai as the basis we can only conclude that the persecutor
of Ramanuja was not Adhirajendra but Kulottunga I. It was the audacious
statement of Kurattalvan, who made a joke of the dictum of the king, viz.,
Sivatparataram nasti that was perhaps responsible for the blinding order.
Ramanuja felt himself unsafe and so he left the Cola territory altogether.
For aught we know even the blinding of Kurattalvan might have been a
hagiographical invention, for the Guruparamparai tells us that the Alvan
regained his eyesight later on through divine beneficence. There is good
reason to believe that the account of persecution is highly exaggerated.

Vikrama Cola (1120-1133)

From inscriptions we know that Vikrama Cola spent a large part of the
state revenues derived in 1128 A.D. upon the Cidambaram temple by way of
structural additions and sumptuous benefactions. Nataraja of Cidambaram
was his family deity. The Koil Olugu says that the same king constructed the
5th prakara wall of the Srirangam temple, with its gateways and gopuras.
The following are also attributed to him.

(1) A gosala or cowshed and a shrine for Krishna in the northeast of the 5th
enclosure, (2) a shrine for Rama in the southwest. (3) a shrine for Nacciyar
in the northwest, and (4) an installation of Garuda in the Peria Tirumantapa
in the 4th or Alinadan enclosure. The 5th enclosure of the temple is known
as Akalangan Tiruvidi, Akalangan being a title of Vikrama Cola. There is no
direct epigraphic confirmation of the above account. The Srirangam temple,
however, contains a single inscription of Parakesarivarman alias Tribhuvana
Vikrama Coladeva dated in his 16th year (1134 A.D.) A high regnal year not
met with in other inscriptions of his.22 (33 of 1936-37; pt.II para 71
met with in other inscriptions of his.22 (33 of 1936-37; pt.II para 71
(Vikrama Cola was crowned in 1118 A.D. when his father, Kulottunga I, was
alive). This simply records a private gift of land and throws no light on the
king’s interest in the temple. Yet it is significant to note that ‘Vikrama
Colacaturvedimangalam’ is mentioned in a few inscriptions of the later
Pandyas in the temple in connection with the formation of the colony called
‘Kaliyugarama-caturvedimangalam’, in the neighbourhood of Srirangam.23 (42,
43, 44 and 47 of 1936-73.)

The Koil-Olugu says that the son of Krimikantha Cola was a well-
meaning monarch. Even while his father was contemplating to persecute the
Vaisnavas he tried to dissuade him from his evil intents but failed. After the
death of his father whose acts he very much repented, he came to the
Srirangam temple with the Cera and Pandya kings and made consultations
with them in the following strain: ‘Temples and their endowments have always
been governed by Brahmanas and there had been no royal encroachments. MY
father, who violated this rule, suffered terribly. Even now I will call back
Udayavar and in your presence hand over to him the entire authority over
the temple’. Sending Maronrilla Marathiyandan to fetch back Udayavar the
three kings returned to their respective cities. When the envoy returned
with Udayavar the Cola24 (The KO calls this Cola by the name Kulottunga
(p.108), probably a generic name for the kings of the dynasty of
KulottungaI.) rushed to Srirangam, handed over to Udayavar the control of
the temple and registered the transfer in a dana sasana or deed of gift.
When he begged for a discipleship at the feet of the Acarya, the latter
willingly made him the disciple of his own disciple, Mudaliyandan to whom he
transferred the control of the temple, which had so long been administered
from the palace. The Koil Olugu ends this account by saying that Udayavar
caused these details to be inscribed on the wall of the Aryabhattal
gateway.25 (KO.pp.107-8) The Guruparamparai and the Divyasuricaritam
give no such account of a patronising Cola. It is not possible to justify this
story on epigraphical grounds.

Kulottunga II (1133-1150)

Kulottunga II, like his father, devoted his energies to the remodeling
and renovation of the Nataraja shrine at Cidambaram. Both his inscriptions
and the Kulottunga-Colan Ula of Ottakootar make prominent mention of his
activities on behalf of this shrine. In his zeal for Saivism he removed, in the
language of the Ula, the little God (Visnu) from the courtyard of the sacred
hall of Tillai.26 (Kulottunga-Colan Ula.11. 77-8) According to the Vaisnava
tradition Ramanuja heard of the desecration of the Govindaraja shrine at
Cidambaram, after he had returned from the Mysore country to
Srirangam.27 (The Koil-Olugu, however, says that Ramanuja installed the
Govindaraja image at Tirupati while he returned to Srirangam from Mysore.
This cannot be true if it is held that the Acarya returned to Srirangam soon
after the death of Kulottunga I. See KO.p.210-1. The descration, then,
has to be taken to the period before Kulottunga II, which goes against the
evidence of Ottakkootar.) He immediately proceeded to Tirupati, whither
the Vaisnavas of Cidambaram had escaped with the image of Govindaraja,
and installed it in a shrine there by the side of the older shrine of
Parthasarathy, whose image had become mutilated and hence unfit for
worship. The earliest record of Kulottunga II, which makes specific mention
of his activities at Cidambaram, comes from Tiruppurambiam and is dated in
his 7th year, i.e., 1140. The desecration of its image and its reconsecration
in a newly built shrine at Tirupati may roughly be assigned to this date.

Ramanuja returned from Tirupati via Kanci to Srirangam, where he

continued to administer the Vaisnava darsana for some time at the end of
which he ‘left this for the abode of Visnu’. His death occurred probably in
1150, as the restoration of the Govindaraja image in a shrine in Tirupati is
according to all accounts the last important event in his life. Roughly then
Ramanuja’s life extended over the century 1050-1150. If we strictly
adhere to the traditional dates for the birth and death of Ramanuja, viz.,
1017 and 1137 it is doubtful whether it would be possible to accommodate
the reconsecration of the Govindaraja image as also a period of peaceful
administration of the darsana from Srirangam subsequent to it between
these two dates.

An inscription of Kulottunga II in the Srirangam temple, dated in his

11th year, register and endowment of land after purchase (from the temple
itself) for a flower-garden by three private individuals, who also made
additional gifts of money for the maintenance of five gardeners.28 (55 of
1936-37.) Another inscription in the temple dated in his 7th year purports
to be an order issued by the deity leasing the temple lands to the
‘Kovanavar’ who were to plant coconut and area palms thereon and to pay
annually a specific part of the yield to the temple.29 (57 of 1936-37)

Rajadhiraja II (1163-1178)

Kulottunga II was succeeded by Rajaraja II (1150-1173), and the

latter by Rajadhiraja II (acc.1163) who ruled upto 1178. There are two
inscriptions of this king in the Srirangam temple.30 (63 and 73 of 1936-37)
They record gifts of money to the temple, one for a lamp and the other for
They record gifts of money to the temple, one for a lamp and the other for
the expenditure involved in the conduct of certain festivals. The donor
figuring in the latter is one Virrirundan Seman alias Tirukkuraivalartta
Akalanga Nadalvar of Tiruttavatturai (Lalgudi). The Koil Olugu mentions him
as a disciple of Ramanuja.31 (KO.pp.45 & 55) The donor figuring in the
former epigraph was one Perumal alias Rajaraja Uttamasetti, a native of
Kurattipattinam in Kaivara-nadu, a subdivision of Poysalanadu, who also
presented a big forehead jewel (sutti) to the God Periya-Perumal. Both are
dated in the 9th year of the king (i.e., 1172).


Copyright © 2005-2007, All rights reserved.

Events of Today

Chapter 5


I In this chapter the fortunes of the
Srirangam temple are traced during the period 1178-1310, the former being
M the date of the death of Rajadhiraja II and the beginning of the
N independent reign of Kulottunga III and the latter the date of Malik Kafur’s
U invasion of Ma’bar. This was the period of the decline of the Cola Empire
and the revival of the Pandyas. The Cola Pandya conflict produced disturbed
conditions in the Tamil country and they gave a good opportunity for
intervention by the neighbouring powers viz., the Hoysalas of Mysore, the
Ceylonese rulers, the Ceras, the Kakatiyas, and the Eastern Gangas of
Orissa. The Hoysalas came with the ostensible object of helping the Colas
against the Pandyas and in the course of their intervention acquired a
compact territory for themselves in and around Kannanur or Vikramapuri,
near Srirangam, which became their subsidiary capital. The Eastern Ganga
forces came to fish in the troubled waters and occupied the Srirangam
temple and adversely interfered with its administration. An inscription in the
temple says that they were expelled by the forces of Maravarman Sundara
Pandya I in 1225 and that normalcy was then restored. But for this incident
and until the Muslim attacks of Malik Kafur in 1310-11 and Ghiyasuddin
Tughlak in 1323 the temple did not suffer in any way from the political
upheavals of the day. On the other hand the new powers that had
superimposed themselves over the Colas extended their patronage to the
Srirangam temple as lavishly as they could in an attempt to outdo their
predecessors in this regard. A long Sanskrit record of Jatavarman Sundara
Pandya I on the walls of the temple runs into raptures over his numerous
benefactions, which included the gold plating of the vimana and setting up an
image of the God made of gold to “the tip of the nails”. The Hoysalas were
also rich benefactors and a few additions were made to the temple in the
course of their rule from Kannanur. Though their political power was wanting
the Colas continued their patronage of the temple as attested by their
numerous inscriptions. The temple had reached its highest point of wealth
and influence before it was desecrated and impoverished by the Muslim raids
of 1310-1311 and 1323.

In religious matters Srirangam continued to be the headquarters of

Vaisnavism in South India, and the successors of Ramanuja were both
Vaisnava pontiffs and wardens of the Ranganatha temple. This was also the
period when the seeds were sown for the split of the Vaisnava ranks into
Tenkalai and Vadakalai. This aspect will be dealt with in the next chapter.

Kulottunga III (1178-1218)

An inscription of Kulottunga III in the Srirangam temple dated in his

19th year describes his victories over Vira Pandya (the rival of Vikrama
Pandya).1 (66 of 1892; SIL. III.88.) It is an order of the king to his
revenue officers purporting to proceed from God Ranganatha “This is the
everlasting great order of the holy Sriranganatha, who is the cause of the
creation, protection and destruction of the three words,” but unfortunately
the contents of the order are lost. The prasasti, however, is in tact. Its
contents, dealing with his military achievements, are, however, not relevant
to our purpose. An inscription dated in the 6th year of the king (1184)
registers a gift of the village Tiruvaippadinallur made tax-free for special
worship and offerings to the god. Alagiamanavala Perumal and the goddess on
the day of the Daivattarayan festival by the gopalas, who owned the
tenancy rights in Valluvappadinadu (in Musiri Taluk, Trichy District.) in
Karikalakanna-valanadu. The donors agreed to pay, in addition, the tax on
250 veli of temple lands. It is not known who Daivattarayan was, who
instituted this festival.2 (61 of 1936-37; also p.71.) The next record
dated in the king’s 7th year registers an endowment of 2,000 kasu by a lady
and her daughter for the merit of the former’s husband Vagalarkodali alias’
…. Natha Pallavaraiyar with the monthly interest on the amount, given as 40
kasu (a high rate of interest working out to 24 per cent per annum) worship
was to be conducted to the god on the day of Rohini, every month, which
was the natal star of the deceased.3 (76 of 1936-37) The next record
dated in the 8th year of the king registers a gift of land in Kamappullur
(North Arcot District) alias Sungamtavirtta-Cola-caturvedimangalam by
Prithvigangan for maintaining a flower-garden in Periyakoil (Srirangam). As
the land endowed was situated far away evidently its income alone was to be
utilised for rearing the flower garden at Srirangam.4 (258 of 1938-39.)
The next record in the 19th year of the king (1197) registers the gift of
12 bhujabala madai (gold coins) to the Srirangam temple for a lamp by
Nunkama Mahadevi, wife of Madurantaka Pottappiccolan alias Siddharaisan
(i.e., the Telugu Coda Nallasiddharas, a subordinate of Kulottunga III).5 (67
of 1936-37.) The last in this series is dated in his 20th regnal year and
refers to the floods in the river Kollidam and the consequent erosion into the
lands of the temples of both Srirangam and Jambukesvaram. As there was
need for a resettlement of their boundaries the king issued orders through
Gangayadeva of Annavayil to his local tax collecting officials, i.e., those who
collected the taxes from the temple lands (puravu vari kuru saivar and
puravu vari naykam saivar) to settle the boundary dispute between the
Vaisnava and Saiva temples. The officers concerned held consultations with
the representatives and superintendents of both the temples, i.e.,
representatives of the sabha or the local assembly and the accountants of
the two villages, and gave their award taking into consideration the holdings
of the two temples as they were before the erosion, in the 19th year of
the king, and the actual enjoyment of rights of both the parties. A suitable
exchange of lands in some cases was also suggested. The award was
satisfactory to both the parties, who demarcated their respective portions
by planting boundary stones with the mark of the tiruvali (Vishnu’s cakra)
and the sula (Siva’s trident).6 (113 of 1938-39.)


Odra occupation of the temple 1223-25

Rajaraja III was less resourceful than his father and he was
defeated by the forces of Maravarman Sundara Pandya II (1238-51). His
feudatories began to assume independence. The Hoysala king, Narasimha II
(A.D.1220-35), championed the Cola cause against the Pandya and other
foes and led repeated expeditions into the Tamil country. One of these
occurred in 1221-22 and was directed against Srirangam.7 (EC VI
Cikmagalur, 56.) An inscription of his dated in S.1145 (A.D.1223) refers to
his victorious march against the Trikalinga kings.8 (EC V.Cannarayapatnam,
203.) It is certain that about this date Nirasimha did not lead an expedition
to the Kalinga kingdom. That the Odras or the forces from Kalinga or Orissa
were in occupation of the Srirangam temple in 1223-25 is known from an
inscription in the temple of the Pandya Maravarman Sundara I, (1216-38),
who is said to have expelled them from the temple in the latter year.9 (53
of 1193; SII IV.500.) Hence it is possible to infer that Narasimha II
marched in 1222 upon Srirangam against the Eastern Kalinga forces, who
were probably advancing against the same shrine about that year. But we
have no knowledge of the sequel though Narasimha’s inscription refers to his
pursuit of the Trikalinga kings “penetrating their train of elephants displaying
unequalled valour.” The Odras were expelled by the Pandya forces ultimately
as is known from the inscription of Maravarman Sundara Pandya, which is
also of immediate interest to us. It runs thus.

“By order of Maravarman Sundara Pandya, “who was pleased to

present the Cola country”, - in his 9th year (1225) -, we Jiyar Narayana
Dasar, Alagiyasola Brahmarayar in charge of the temple and its environs,
Periya Tirupati Srivaisnavas, the various temple servants, the Bhagavata
Nambis, the members of the Sabha of Tiruvarangam, the Vinnappamsaivar
(choristers), Sripadam-tangum Nambimar (the vehicle bearers), the various
nimantakaras (temple servants) including the Aryas (with their duties) at the
gateway (the Arya Bhattal), the Bhattas or the arcakas, the Srivaisnava
devotees of Emberumanar (Ramanuja) and the Srivaisnavas of the 18
Mandalas that had come to witness the great festival met together in the
west of the Rajamahendran enclosure and came to the following settlement:

The ‘ten persons’ (the heads of the ten groups of temple servants),
who were governing the temple from ancient times, joined with the Oddas
and collected Oddukasu (a levy for the Oddas) from the temple and the
nimamakaras. They also gave the Oddas paddy from the temple lands and in
various other ways destroyed the property of the temple. As a result one
day’s provision for the temple had to be utilised for many days; and on
certain days puja was not celebrated at all. Thus was the temple worship
intercepted for about 300 days in the last two years. These ‘ten persons’
appropriated to themselves the temple lands in various localities and shared
the yields (including taxes) with the Oddas. Thus the temple worship was
interfered with and the property of the Sribhandara (the treasury of the
temple) squandered away. The temple servants were impoverished. This gave
rise to loud complaints and protests. Now the regime of the Oddas is over
and our Samantanar (Senapatis, i.e., the Pandya generals) have taken
possession of the temple as belonging to the rightful government. The landed
properties were all restored and all the temple services were properly
conducted. The persons responsible for the above wrongs were dismissed
from the temple.

Now the temple servants belonging to the different groups (Tirupati

kottu) are to be chosen by lot. At the close of each year they are to be
replaced (by election). This annual election is to apply also to the various
committees of Srivaisnavas”. The inscriber is said to be a temple accountant
by name Haricaranalayappirian.

Here, for the first time, we get epigraphical confirmation, in a way,

of Ramanuja’s activities in Srirangam in the mention of the ‘Srivaisnava
devotees of Emperumanar’ among persons intimately connected with the
temple. This epigraph supplements in a large measure that of Kulottunga I,
noted above,10 (61 of 1892.) so far as the temple organisation is
concerned. At least five groups of temple servants or Kottus among the ten
enumerated by the Koil-Olugu, in connection with Ramanuja’s reforms in the
temple, are mentioned in this inscription. The existence of the ten groups is
also clearly recognised. The five mentioned are the Bhagavata Nambis, the
Sripadam Tanguvar (or Stanattar), the Vinnappamsaivar, Aryabhattal, and
the Bhattalkottu. The well known facts that the medieval South Indian
temple was an owner of extensive lands, that it possessed a treasury of its
own and that it was an organised institution working with the help of groups
of servants and elected committees and protected by kings in troublous times
are also amply borne out. The mention of Rajamahendran tiruvidi is again
significant in that it confirms the traditional association of Rajamahendra
with the Srirangam temple recorded in the Vikrama-solan-ula and the Koil-

The troubles of the Srirangam temple due to the Odra occupation

noted above are also narrated by the Koil-Olugu, but it gives a wrong date
for the Orissan invasion. It places the invasion during the pontificate of
Uyyakonda and Manakkal Nambi, i.e., roughly during the 10 century. It
gives a new piece of information, viz., that the God of Srirangam was
removed, for purposes of safety, to Tirumalirumsolai, where He stayed for
about a year. When the image was restored it was found that some temple
servants including the arcakas had turned traitors to the cause of
Ranganatha, that Vaikhanasa priests had taken over worship and that men
of non-Vaisnava creeds were living independently in Srirangam. The Olugu,
however, is unaware of the restoration effected by Maravarman Sundara
Pandya but simply says that Alavandar expelled the non-Vaisnavas and was
gloriously administering the darsana. Alavandar again came much earlier.11


Effects on the temple:

During 1230-31 Rajaraja III made an attempt to over throw the

Pandya yoke, was defeated by the forces of Maravarman Sundara Pandya I
and imprisoned by his own Kadavaraya feudatory, Kopperunjinga at
Sendamangalam, and was restored to his position by the forces of Hoysala
Narasimha II. The latter had established their camp at Paccur, two miles
north of Srirangam, and Narasimha directed his campaigns against the
Pandya from there. The real object of the Hoysalas was to seize some
territory of the Colas while ostensibly going to their help against the
Pandyas. Consistent with this policy they changed sides and lent their
support to the weak Maravarman Sundara Pandya II (1238-51) against the
energetic Coli crown-prince, Rajendra, who became king in his own right
(Rajendra III) in 1257. As a result Hoysala Somesvara (1235-54)
succeeded in establishing a subsidiary capital at Kannanur, five miles north of
Srirangam, in the heart of the Cola kingdom. It was called Vikramapurai.

Inscriptions in the Srirangam temple in which Hoysala officers and

others figure as donors range between 1232 and 1248, but the reigning king
mentioned is invariably Rajaraja III and not Narasimha II or Somesvara.
The Cola and Hoysala kings had even entered into matrimonial alliances in this
period probably on the understanding that Srirangam and Kannanur were to
be recognised as Cola and Hoyasala respectively. An inscription dated
S.1154 or A.D.1232 registers a gift of land on the occasion of a lunar
eclipse for offerings to Ranganatha during the early morning service by
Sriramabhattan of the Bharadwaja gotra (Bhardwajakulatilakan). The door is
said to have lived in the time of king Naraharibhupala (Narasimha II), and
to the shrine Tirukkulaludina Pillai (Venugopala Krisna), which was built and
consecrated by Umadevi, the queen of Ballala II (1173-1220) at the capital
Dwarasamudra. The son of a great teacher at Kuruhapura (Kurugur?) he was
an ardent Vaisnava and proficient in mantric lore.12 (69 of 1936-37; Pt.II,
para 47) Another inscription dated 1233 records a gift of garden by
Devaladevi, the queen of Somesvara, to the temple. A sum of 4,000 kasus
had been gifted for purchase of eight velis of land for the purpose.13 (54
of 1892; SII IV.501; EI.VII.p.163.) The next record is dated 1238 and
registers an endowment of land to the deity of the Srirangam temple by
Chattayan, a senaiboga of Bogayadendanayakkar and Vallaiya-dendunayakkar,
the dendunayakas (generals) of Devan Somesvaradeva, for his own well-
being. The gift was made over to Siramapiran Bhattan, the Nambi of
Periakoil.14 (158 of 1951-52) The next record is dated in the 23rd year of
Rajaraja III, i.e., 1239. It registers a grant of two ma of land, purchased
for 8,540 kasu, by Gopannan for providing flower garlands to the deity. The
land was made over to the Nambi of Periakoil.15 (156 of 1951-52) The
next record is dated in the 6th year of Somesvara, i.e., 1240. It registers
a gift of garden to the temple made by Somaladevi, one of the queens of
Somesvara. For this purpose she purchased 20 kulis of land at a cost of
3,000 kasu.16 (68 of 1892; SII. IV.515) An inscription dated in the 31st
year of the Cola king, i.e., 1247, registers a gift of 1,200 varaha-gajjnam
(gadyana) equivalent to 840,000 kasu for worship and offerings during the
sandi (worship), instituted in the name of his son Singanna Dandanayakka, in
the Srirangam temple by Sankadevannangal (Sankaradevadandanayaka), the
mahapradhani of Somesvaradeva.17 (102 of 1938-39.) Singhana was one of
the important generals of Somesvara. Another inscription, dated 1248 and
much damaged, refers to Singhanadandesa as a mantri of Somesvara and
registers some provision for offerings made by him to the deity.18 (134 of
1938-39.) Another record of the same year registers a gift of 15 varaha-
gajjanam of gold made for the daily supply of garlands to Ranganatha for the
welfare of Kamadava, a son of Tikkanai-nacciyar, one of the queens of
Somesvara.19 (147 of 1938-39.)

The above inscriptions clearly show that friendly relations existed

between Rajaraja III and Somesvara. The latter, it was seen above, used
his own regnal year in an inscription (dated 1240) recording the gift of a
gorden by one of his queens, while the other Hoysala records in the temple
carried the regnal years of the Cola. Somesvara patronised, like the other
kings of his dynasty, both Saiva and Vaisnava temples, perhaps with a
predilection for the former. This could be inferred from his more concrete
patronage of the Saiva temple of Jambukesvaram or Tiruvanaikka, lying
within a mile to the east of the Vaisnava temple of Srirangam. From his
inscriptions in this temple it is known, that he set up images of gods with
suitable shrines, in North Jambukesvaram, in the name of his grand father
Balala II (Vallalesvara), his grand mother Padmala (Padmalesvara), his
father Narasimha II (Vira Narasimhesvara) and his queen Somala
(Somalisvara)20. (18 of 1891; 119 of 1936-37.) The Seven-storeyed
gopura in the east of the temple is attributed to him by an epigraph.21
(ARE 1892, para 7; 1936-37, pt.II, para 48.) He also instituted in the
main temple a festival in his name, Vira-Somesvaran-Tirunal.22 (121 of
1936-37.) These, however, do not justify the assumption of the late
Government Epigraphist, Mr.C.R.Krishnamacharlu that Somesvara was a
bigoted Saiva, who was hostile to Srirangam. He says: “Somesvara’s records
are not found at Srirangam, the famous Vaisnava centre; and this justifies
the remarks made in the opening verse of the Srirangam inscription of
Jatavarman Sundara Pandya I that Somesvara had reduced to a pitiable
state the lotus-pond of Srirangam.”23 (ARE 1936-37, pt.II, para 48.) We
have just now listed the inscriptions of Somesvara in the Srirangam temple,
which do not reveal any hostility of a Saiva monarch against a Vaisnava
temple. On the other hand they show the patronage of the members of his
family or his officers. So far as the statement in the inscription of
Jatavarman Sundara Pandya is concerned it is clearly a poetical convention.
It is implied that the lotus in the lotus-pond of Srirangam “suffered” (or
had gone into a slumber) under the moon of Karnata, i.e., Somesvara (soma-
moon) and blossomed again under the rise on the sun among kings, i.e.,
Jatavarman Sundara Pandya I.24 (The Hoysalas generally encouraged the
building of Jaina, Vaisnava and Saiva monuments.) The Kaliyugaraman gopura,
building of Jaina, Vaisnava and Saiva monuments.) The Kaliyugaraman gopura,
in the east Citra street, shows the Hoysala symbol of the Gandabherunda on
each of its four jambs and the Pandya symbol of a pair of fish on the beams
of the ceiling. The gopura closely resembles that of Jambukesvaram built by
Somesvara. It may reasonably be stated that the gopura was a product of
the joint efforts of the Hoysala king, probably Somesvara, and Jatavarman
Vira Pandya (acc.1297), surnamed Kaliyugaraman.25 (19 of 1891.)

While referring to an inscription of Narasimha II in Srirangam the

Government Epigraphist mentioned above said that the highly ornate shrine
of Venugopala-Krisna in the fourth prakara “with sculptures and figurines
resembling Hoysala work but with no inscriptions on its walls” possibly came
into existence “during the period of the Hoysala occupation of Srirangam and
its environs”. I.e., in the reign of Rajaraja III.26 (ARE, 1936-37, pt.II,
para 47. So far as “the Hoysala occupation of Srirangam and its environs” is
concerned it was suggested above that Kannanur was perhaps the limit of
Hoysala occupation and it did not extend upto Srirangam.) Here again the
epigraphist was not right as a study of the architecture and sculpture of
this shrine does not show any Hoysala feature or influence, neither is there
any striking resemblance with those of the Hoysalesvara temple at Kannanur,
which is known to have been built by Somesvara.27 (18 of 1891.) It is a
true representation of the orthodox South Indian style of temple
architecture and perhaps belongs to the late Vijayanagar period.

The connections of Hoysala Vira-Ramanatha, son and successor of

Somesvara, with the Srirangam temple are dealt with later.



The weak rule of Maravarman Sundara Pandya II came to an end in

1251 and was succeeded by the glorious reign of Jatavarman Sundara Pandya
I. This celebrated monarch carried everything before him and performed
grand digvijaya right upto Nellore, where he performed a virabhiseka
sometime after 1264. By 1258 he had trumphed over the Cola and the
Hoysala Rajendra III, who became king in 1257, had immediately to accept
a subordinate status and pay tribute. Hoysala Somesvara was defeated at
Kannanur and forced to withdraw to Mysore about the same year. Three
years before this event, i.e. in 1254 Somesvara had set up his son
Ramanatha, by Devaladevi, as king of the Tamil province, with Kannanur as
capital, and another son, Narasimha (III), by Bijjaladevi, as king of the
ancestral dominion with its capital at Dwarasamudra. From inscriptions we
know that Vira Ramanatha fought hard against the rising tide of the Pandyas
know that Vira Ramanatha fought hard against the rising tide of the Pandyas
and soon regained his hold over Kannanur. In fact he seems to have improved
upon his father’s position so far as Srirangam is concerned vis-a-vis the
Cola. The rise of the Pandyas was not so much a great blow to the Hoysala
as it was to the Cola. This is clear from a study of the Hoysala inscriptions
in the Srirangam temple, which has many records of Vira-Ramanatha
carrying his own regnal year. This was not the case with Somesvara. We
shall first trace the relations of Jatavarman Sundara Pandya I with the
temple and then those of Ramanatha.

Of Jatavarman Sundara there are many Sanskrit and Tamil

inscriptions. The most important as well as the longest of his Sanskrit
records is that of 30 verses in the Srirangam temple.28 (45 of 1891; EI.
III. pp. 7 ff. A shorter inscription referring to some of his gifts is 60 of
1892; SII. IV. 507.) This, in common with the other Sanskrit inscriptions
of his, bears no date. The Tamil inscriptions give astronomical data,
sometimes combined with the Saka year.

Sundara Pandya seems to have first dealt with his neighbour, the
Cera, and ravaged his territory, the Malainadu. He then compelled the Cola,
who was no more than a protégé of the Hoysala to pay him tribute. He
defeated the Hoysalas, who suffered a terrible rout losing many of their
valiant generals, treasure, elephants, horses, etc. The fortress of Kannanur
was stormed. When the Hoysala forces began to withdraw towards their
mountain plateau, i.e., Mysore, according to the inscription of this king at
Tiruppunduritti (Tanjore dt.), dated in his 7th year (1258), he desisted
from pursuit.29 (166 of 1894; SII. V.459.) This record gives the prasasti
or meikkirti of the Pandya. According to it he visited, at the close of his
victorious campaign, the famous Saiva shrine at Cidambaram and worshipped
God Nataraja. From Cidambaram he proceeded to Srirangam where he wore
the garland of victory (vagai), which contained in it margosa flowers from the
groves in Uraiyur (Koli), and made rich endowments to the temple by
performing many a time the ceremony of tulabhara or ‘ascending the scales’
against jewels and pearls. He roofed with gold the temple of Visnu, in which
He reclines on the thousand-hooded Ananta and which is watered by the twin
rivers. And in that temple he sat with his queen upon a luxuriously jewelled
throne, wearing a golden crown and resembling the morning sun rising on the
top of the eastern hill. Poets and scholars sang his praises. His queen
Ulagamulududaiyal (‘who possessed all the world’) was attended on either side
by the queens of other kings, fanning her with fly-whisks and singing her
praises.30 (Ibid.)
The Hoysala forces under Somesvara attempted to recover Kannanur
but the king was defeated and killed in a battle fought near Srirangam
sometime in 1263-64.31 (Somesvara’s death is assigned to 1263, which is
the latest regnal year cited in his inscriptions, (cf. 34 of 1891). Already (in
1254) he had divided his kingdom among his two sons Ramanatha and
Narasimha III. The long Sanskrit record of Sundara Pandya at Srirangam
(45 of 1891) opens with the statement: ‘Having caused to long for the other
world that Moon of Karnata (Hoysala Somesvara), by whom this lotus pond of
Sriranga had been reduced to a pitiable state, (and) reinstating in this
(lotus-pond of Sriranga) the goddess Laksmi, who is worshipped in the three
worlds-king Sundara Pandya rose full of brilliancy like the sun’.) The double
triumph over the Hoysalas and other triumphs over the Kadava chief of
Sendamangalam, the Telugu Codas of Nellore and their allies placed in the
hands of the Pandya enormous booty and treasure, e.g., his Srirangam
epigraph says that he plundered the capital of the Kataka (Kadava) king,
took a garland of emeralds and offered it to God Ranganatha. His
inscriptions testify to the fact that the enormous booty, which he thus
acquired, was lavishly spent upon the Saiva and Vaisnava temples at
Cidambaram and Srirangam.

The long Sanskrit record of the Pandya at Srirangam mentions his

benefactions in buildings and gifts. He built a shrine on a gopura for
Narasimha referred to as Visnu, ‘who gracefully raises his arms and who has
the lacerated demon (Hiranyakasipu) on his lap,32 (The shrine of Eduttakai
Alagiyasingar or Mettalagiyasingar on the northern gopura of the fourth
enclosure and near the Nacciyar shrine.) and a shrine for Visvaksena
(Senaimudaliar), both of which were covered with gold. He covered the main
shrine with gold, - an achievement of which he must have been specially
proud, as he assumed, with reference to it, the surname ‘Hemaccadana Raja’
(i.e., ‘the king who covered the temple with gold’). This earthly king who sat
in state with his queen on a jewelled throne in the temple of God wanted to
set up an image of himself and install it but the temple parijanas refused
him permission.33 (KO. p.17.) Thereupon he cast an idol of Visnu in gold “to
the tips of the nails” and placed it in the main shrine. After his own surname
he called it ‘Hemaccadana - Raja Hari’. He covered the inner walls of the
shrine with gold and built in front of it a dining hall (for the God, i.e.,
abhyavahara mantapa or amudu mantapa), which he equipped with golden
vessels. In the course of two dining weeks (abhyvahara varas), which he
called after his own name, he “filled the capacious belly of the God, which
even the fourteen worlds could not fill”.34 (This perhaps refers to the
sumptuous feeding of the devotees with the food offered to the deity.) In
sumptuous feeding of the devotees with the food offered to the deity.) In
the month of Caitra he celebrated the ‘procession festival’ (Yatrotsava) of
the God.35 (This inscription of 30 vv. Is in ornate Sanskrit and is full of
poetical imagination, e.g., the month of Caitra is said to be “praiseworthy on
account of its bright, wonderful and prosperious days. It is no wonder that
those who possess intelligence rejoice, when even the trees, which are devoid
of intelligence are in his glee” (i.e., in full flower.) ) For the ‘festival of the
God’s sporting with Lakshmi’ (Viharotsava) he built a golden ship. He erected
three golden domes, one over the image of Hemaccadana-Raja Hari, one over
that of Garuda and the third over the hall which contained the conch
(Sankha) of Visnu. The following miscellaneous gifts to Ranganatha are
enumerated in the inscriptions: a garland of emeralds, taken from the
Kadava king, which clings to the God’s breast and in so doing resembles “the
tender arms of the earth (goddess) who has sportively approached from
behind to embrace Him”, a crown of jewels, whose splendour extinguishes the
light of the jewels on the hoods of Adisesa,” the serpent couch of gold
“which glittered as though it had been smeared with the saffron dye of the
body of Lakshmi, who was spoting with her husband”, a golden image of
Seasa, a golden arch (Makaratorana) “made” with masses of gold taken from
the crowns of his enemies and adorned with numerous jewels and under which
Hari surpasses a monsoon cloud surrounded by a rainbow”, a pearl garland, a
canopy (vitana) of pearls different kinds of golden fruits, viz., areca-nuts,
jack-fruits, plantains, coconuts and mangoes, a golden car (ratha), a golden
trough, a golden image of Garuda, a golden under-garment, a golden aureola
(prabhavalaya), a golden pedestal, jewels and ornaments to adorn the image
of the God from the crest to the feet, a golden armour, golden vessels, and
a golden throne. The first of the gifts, enumerated above, appears to have
suggested the surname, ‘Marakatapritvibhrit, i.e. ‘the emerald king’, which
is applied to Sundara Pandya in verse 13 of the inscription. A shorter
Sanskrit inscription of the Pandya in the temple refers to his gilding of the
vimana and his gift to the God (Bhujangaraja) of a couch or bedding (sayya),
gateway (dvara), and canopy (vitana), which he had captured from his
enemies.36 (60 of 1892; SII. IV.507)

The Koil-Olugu gives a more elaborate account of the benefactions of

Sundara Pandyadeva under two heads.37 (KO.pp.15-18.) The first describes
the gifts made under the supervision of the temple accountant called Pallavan
Vilupparaiyan Kariamanikkam.38 (Pallavan Kariamanikka, the temple
accountant. Pallavan was, according to the Olugu, a title enjoyed by the
accountant of the temple, Vilupparaiyan is one who reads the accounts of
the temple in the presence of the deity.) It is likely that the great
benefactor appointed his own man to keep the accounts of his expenditure on
benefactor appointed his own man to keep the accounts of his expenditure on
the temple. The second refers perhaps to the series of gifts made in the
direct presence of the Pandya. All the gifts mentioned in the inscription are
elaborated in the Olugu. It is said that Sundara Pandya built 24 tulapurusa
mantapas in the four inner enclosures and performed tulabharas therein. The
inscription says: “Repeatedly performing the ascending of the scales every
day at the shrine of the Lord of Ranga the sun among kings would have
doubtlessly broken up (Mount) Meru for the sake of gold, had it not borne
the (Pandyan) emblem of the fish” (verse 27). A prodigious tulabhara called
the “elephant tulabhara” is also described in the Olugu. It is said that two
boats of equal weight were floated in a river ghat and in one Sundara Pandya
sat upon his huge state-elephant with all his weapons and in the other were
poured gold, pearls and diamonds till the latter sank to the level of the
former. This treasure was utilised in various temple benefactions. He is
credited with the construction of the mantapa opposite the sanctum (the
Gayatri mantapa). The gift of a golden image of Cerakulavalli is a new
feature in the list furnished by the Olugu. It also says that he covered the
walls, pillars and cornices of the two innermost enclosures with gold plates.
Another gift not mentioned in the inscription but noticed by the Olugu is a
golden flag staff in the Aniyarangan courtyard. As estimated by the Olugu,
the total expenditure involved in these benefactions amounted to 36 lakhs of
gold pieces (pons).

From an inscription on a slab set up in the Manavala Mahamuni matha

in the south Uttara street in Srirangam it is known that it was constructed
by one Varataruvan Edattakai Alagiyan39 ( (Called after) ‘the boon-
bestowing Narasimha with the hand uplifted.’) alias Pallavarayan of Tunjalur
in the reign of Jatavarman Sundara I. It was called Sundara Pandyan matha
and was built for the welfare of Perumal Sundara Pandya.40 (99 of 1936-
37, pt.II, para 39.) This Pandya officer (Pallavarayan of Tunjalur) is
mentioned in the inscriptions of Maravarman Sundara Pandya II, Jatavarman
Sundara Pandya I, Maravarman Kulasekhara I and Jatavarman Sundara
Pandya II, covering a period from 1238 to 1287.41 (The vimana and the
mantapa of the Nammalvar shrine at Kapila tirtham in Tirupati were
constructed by the same Pallavarayan (Tirumalai Tirupati Devasthanam
Epigraphical Report, p.77).

Two inscriptions of Jatavarman Sundara Pandya I on the walls of the

Candana mantapa of the temple throw some light on its administrative
organisation.42 (84 and 89 of 1938-39; pt.II, para 28.) Both are dated in
the 10th year or the king (1261). One records a royal order issued to his
officer Vanadaraya to appoint the Ariyar and the Ullurar to guard the
treasury (porkaval) of the temple from Avani in his 10th regnal year. The
management of the temple, which was hitherto vested in one group (Kottu) of
officials, was now extended to members of other groups also. The other
deals with the same subject but is more informative. It purports to be an
order issued at the request of the king by the God himself while seated with
His consorts on the Bhupalarayan thorne (simhasana). It states that the
administration of the temple was hitherto conducted by a body of ten
persons belonging to the Kovanavar Kottu. The benefactions of the king are
then recounted. Besides gilding the Sriranga vimana and the Sundara Pandyan
madil (or wall) and gopura and making gifts of various articles and ornaments
of gold and precious stones he is said to have constructed the
adukkalaippuram or the kitchen halls and instituted a few services. The
increase in the wealth of the temple necessitated closer supervision and
consequently a change in the management, which was now entrusted to a body
of ten, not exclusively of the Kovanavar as before, but two selected from
the Kovanavar, two from Srirangamaraiyor, one from Todavattittuimaraiyor,
two from Talaiyiduvar, one from Vasal-Ariyar and two from Arattamukki-
anukkar.43 (For an explanation of these terms see the chapter on the
Administration of the Temple.)



A series of inscriptions in the Srirangam temple ranging from 1256 to

1269 carry the regnal years of Hoysala Vira-Ramanatha. This shows that
either the Hoysalas regained their position in the area of Srirangam and
Kannanur after the brief but resplendent digvijaya of Jatavarman Sundara
(1256-58) or that they were ruling as his subordinate allies. It is needless
for us to go into the details of the political history of this period or try to
reconcil the claims of the Pandya in his inscriptions with the province of the
Hoysala records in this area. A record of Vira-Ramanatha dated in his 2nd
regnal year (1256) refers to the gift of a garden to the temple by a horse
dealer (Kudiraiccetti) of Malaimandalam (Malayala territory) called Nallur
Tuppanayakkan. The gift was made over to Tiruvaravanai Niraindar, a
Sripadamtangum Nambimar, along with a piece of land for his sustenance.
The recipient was to supply daily two garlands to the temple.44 (67 of
1892; SII. IV.514) An inscription dated in the 3rd year of Ramanatha
(1257) records the foundation of a Salai (Arogyasalai) in the procession path
(tirunadai-maligai) to the west of the northern gopura in the fourth prakara
of the temple. The donor, Cingadeva Singana Dandanayaka, is called a
pradhani of Vira Ramanatha. He made an endowment of land situated in
Mummadisola Caturvedimangalam (Lalgudi Taluk) for the upkeep of the Salai.
The arogyasala (or hospital) itself was entrusted to Garudavahana Pandita,
styled the raksaka or protector of the donor.45 (80 of 1936-37; EI.
XXIV. p.90) This Garudavahana is said to have composed a Prabandam called
Rangaghosanai, which is not extant. The Koil Olugu, most probably deriving
its information from this record, says that Gangaidevar Singam
Dandanayakkar, the agent of Pratapacakravarti (a title of Vira-Ramanatha)
constructed the Arogyasala and the procession path in the fourth enclosure
of the temple.46 (KO.p.13.) The next inscription is dated in the 7th year
of Ramanatha (1261).47 (74 of 1936-37) The Tiruppundurutti record of
Jatavarman Sundara Pandya, dated 1258, suggests that in that year or the
year before, the Srirangam temple had received his great gifts. Thus the
gap, 1257 to 1261, in the records of Ramanatha is significant. This is a
highly damaged record. It seems to register a gift of land for a flower
garden by a member of the mint establishment community Kambattattu
Anikkarar). The next is dated in his 8th year (1262) and it records a gift
of land for a flower garden to the temple for the merit of Ramanatha’s
queen Kamaladevi and her two daughters, Periyatangi Iraiyakkan and
Viccanan.48 (62 of 1936-37.) Another record in the temple, also belonging
to the 8th year of the king, registers a gift of gold by Sahala Bhatta, son
of Ahala Bhatta of the Sakala gotra, who belonged to the community of
Paradesi Savasi (Sahavasi) merchants, for offerings during one service in the
temple and for supplying garlands to the God for the merit of the donor and
his son. The donor was Brahmana engaged in trade.49 (70 of 1936-37;
Pt.II, para 50.) The next is dated in his 12th year (1266).50 (57 of 1892;
SII IV.504) This inscription opens with an enumeration of all the birudas of
the dead Somesvara. In this year there was a peaceful visit to the
Srirangam temple of the royal household, which included Ponnambala
Mahadeviyar, the sister of Vira-Ramanatha and daughter of Somesvara by
Devaladevi. She figures as the donor in this inscription. It records her gift
of gardens to the temple. Out of their yields were to be supplied the
provisions for the tiruvaradana, etc. of the Karthikai festival. Tirumanattun
Nambi was to supply the garlands. An interesting record in the temple
without date may be assigned to the 14th year of Ramanatha. This records
the setting up of a Sarasvaribhandara or library in a mantapa erected for
the purpose by Palappalli Nilakantha Nayakar, who also installed nearby the
images of Sarasvatidevi, Vedavyasa Bhagavan and Hayagriva, the three
presiding deities of learning. Money was also gifted for the provision of
offerings to the deities.51 (139 of 1938-39; Pt.II, para 70.) This donor is
known to have made an endowment in the 14th year of Vira-Ramanathadeva
(1268) to the neighbouring Jambukesvaram temple.52 (4 of 1937-38.) The
library was probably housed in a portion of the mantapas, now occupied by
the Madappalli in the 3rd prakara, where the inscription was found. The
next record of Ramanatha in the temple is dated in his 15th year (1269).53
(52 of 1892; SII. IV.499.) This records the gift of a private person who
calls himself Kariyamari Sakalavidyacakravartin to Ranganatha of four
ornaments, viz., a golden vase (kalanji), a diamond crown (karanda makuta),
and two fly-whisks (camaras) with golden handles, which he had previously
received from Vira Pandya.

The above inscriptions doubtless show that Vira-Ramanatha was a

patron of the Srirangam temple. The Koil-Olugu enumerates the benefactions
of a certain Kampaya Dandanayaka, a pradhani of Ramanathadeva, and of
his brother Kariyamanikka Dandanayaka.54 (KO.p.20.) An inscription refers
to the former as a maternal uncle of Singhana Dandanayaka, the builder of
the Arogyasala in the temple.55 (SII. VIII.88.) Many important structures
in the fourth and fifth enclosures like the thousand pillared mantapa, the
shrines of Paravasudeva, Sudarsana Perumal and Lakshminarayana Perumal,
the mantapa of the Nacciyar shrine etc., are attributed to these two



Maravarman Kulasekhara I (1268-1312), who succeeded Jatavarman

Sundara I, defeated Cola Rajendra III and his ally Hoysala Ramanatha
about 1279 and annexed their dominions. While the Cola kingdom ceased to
exist Ramanatha seized some territory in the Kannada area from his brother
and began to rule over it. Thus Srirangam, Kannanur and the adjoining areas
passed definitely under the Pandyas. Ceylon was successfully invaded in 1280
by the Pandya general Aryacakravarti. The Srirangam temple contains a
single inscription of Maravarman Kulasekhara dated in his 10th year (1278).
The donor figuring in this epigraph is said to be Matitungan Tanininruvenra
Perumal alias Ariyacakravarti of Cakravartinallur, who is probably the same
as the Pandya general mentioned above.56 (7 of 1936-37; pt.II, para 40.)
It records a gift of land by purchase for rearing flower gardens and offering
garlands of God Ranganatha.

In the last years of Maravarman Kulasekhara two princes were acting

as his co-regents, a Jatavarman Sundara Pandya who began his rule in 1303
and a Jatavarman Vira Pandya, who ascended the throne in 1297. According
to Wassaf “the elder named Sundar Pandi, was legitimate, his mother being
to Wassaf “the elder named Sundar Pandi, was legitimate, his mother being
joined to the Dewar by lawful marriage, and the younger named Tira Pandi
was illegitimate, his mother being one of the mistresses who continually
attended the king in his banquet of pleasure.”57 (Dr.N.Venkataramanayya,
The Early Muslim Expansion in South India, p.204.) The civil war between
these two brothers was the chief point of interest to the Muslim chroniclers
as it provided, according to them, the cause of Malik Kafur’s invasion of
Ma’bar. It is, however, now clear that it was only a pretext. The two
brothers seem to have ruled over different parts of the Pandya country,
Vira Pandya till 1341 and Sundara Pandya till 1319 or 1320. We also have a
(Maravarman) Kulasekhara (II) who began his reign in 1314. Two other
princes Vikrama and Parakrama make the ‘Panca Pandyas’ or the “five
crowned kings of the great province of Ma’oar”, referred to by Macro Polo.
The distintegration must have produced disturbed conditions, but as has been
frequently provided, the temples did not suffer and serious damage so long
as the parties were Hindu monarchs. So far as Srirangam is concerned the
prosperous state of the temple in which it was left by Jatavarman Sundara
Pandya I continued undiminished. Numerous inscriptions ranging from 1307 to
1317 belonging to the temple give unusually elaborate details of the
settlement of learned Brahmanas in newly formed agraharas.

Nine inscriptions of Jatavarman Vira Pandya refer to the foundation

of Kaliyugarama-caturvedimangalam.58 (42-50 of 1936-37; pt.II, para 42.
‘Kaliyugaraman’ was title of this Pandya king. It was also borne by a certain
Maravarman Vira Pandya of acc.1420. See ARE 1938-39, pt.II para 35.)
The Agaram or Agrahara (Brahmana village) was formed by one Kalingaraya,
an officer of the king, in the kings name, in his 10th year (1307) by
obtaining lands for house-sites from various sources. Some he purchased,
some he obtained by exchange and some as gifts. A large part seems to
have been purchased from the sabha of Vikramacola-caturvedimangalam.
These lands were given over to Bhattas tax-free. The connection between
the donees and the Srirangam temple is not mentioned. Obviously they were
all learned in the Vedas, - Acaryas, who had something to do with the
temple directly or indirectly. The sites could be sold to one another among
themselves, but if it was found necessary to sell outside they should be sold
to Bhaga vatas and to persons of the same darsana.59 (42 of 1936-37.)
After the lands had been gifted away some were obtained back for forming
a trunk-road (nattuperuvali), which ran through the colony, and to
compensate the acquisition fresh tax-free lands were given to those that
had parted with lands.60 (46 of 1936-37.) Four records mention Gomadattu
Narayana Bhatta and his brother of Vikramacola-caturvedimangalam, who
sold some lands and gifted some to Kalingaraya for the formation of the new
sold some lands and gifted some to Kalingaraya for the formation of the new
colony, which is referred to, once, as Kalingarayar-agaram.61 (43, 44, 47
and 48 of 1936-37.) One inscription gives particulars about this Pandya
officer, who formed the colony. He is referred to as Valaivisuvan
Periyaperumal Kalingarayar of Kattikkuricci, a hamlet of Parantakanallur in
Naduvilkurram, a subdivision of Milalaikurram in Pandimandalam.62 (45 of
1936-37. It may be mentioned that Kalingarayan, Kandiyadevan,
Pattamanangattan and Ulagelam-venran were the birudas of Kaikkola and
Devanga weavers.) Two records declare that while the God (of Srirangam)
was seated on the Sundara Pandyan throne under the Sundara Pandyan pearl
canopy in the abhisheka mantapa in the temple on the Kartigai festival day,
a gift of 32 house sites was made to 32 Brahmanas settled in the
Kaliyugarama Caturvedimangalam. These sites were purchased from the
sabha of Vikramasola Caturvedimangalam and gifted by Kalingarayar. The gift
was approved by the deity, who issued an order to that effect.63 (42 and
49 of 1936-37.) All these records belong to the 10th year of the king,
viz., 1307. The last two are important as they refer to the throne and
pearl canopy gifted to God Alagiyamanavalan by Jatavarman Sundara Pandya
I and as they suggest that the new colony was meant for the habitation of
about 32 learned Brahmanas.

The Koil-Olugu says that Kaliyugaraman built the Tirumangai Alvar

mutt and other mutts in the Citra street and its prakara wall.64
(KO.pp.22-23.) High up on each of the four door jambs of the big gopura in
the middle of the East Citra street is found the label ‘Kaliyugaraman’ in
grantha characters of the 13th century incised above a standing composite
image of Gandabherunda, a human body surmounted by two birds’ heads
facing opposite directions. 65 (98 of 1936-37) As the latter was the
emblem of the Hoysalas and as it is known that the great gopura of seven
storyes at Jambukesvaram was constructed by Somesvara66 (19 of 1891;
para 42, pt.II of ARE 1936-37.) and as both the gopuras are alike in
workmanship it may reasonably be stated that the are alike in workmanship
it may reasonably be stated that the Kaliyugaraman gopura was first built or
its construction started by a Hoysala king, Vira Narasimha or Somesvara,
and it was heightened or repaired or completed by Jatavarman Vira Pandya
surnamed Kaliyugaraman. It may also be noted that the figures of a pair of
fish flanking an ankusa are sculptured in relief on two of the ceiling beams of
this gopura. The same Pandya symbols are found sculptured in relief on the
two main ceiling beams of the seven-storeyed eastern gopura of the
Jambukesvaram temple attributed to Hoysala Somesvara.67 (19 of 1891,
para 48 of ARE 1936-37.) It is interesting to note that these two gopuras,
one in the Vaisnava temple at Srirangam and the other in the Saiva temple
one in the Vaisnava temple at Srirangam and the other in the Saiva temple
at Jambukesvaram owed their existence to Hoysala Pandya collaboration,
though at different times.68 (The Government Epigraphist in the Report for
1936-37 (pt.II, para 48) thinks that the Pandya collaborator in this case
was probably Maravar man Sundara Pandya I. (acc.1216) as 19 of 1891
indicates that Somesvara completed the construction of the gopura, meaning
there by that he built the upper talas.)


Copyright © 2005-2007, All rights reserved.

Events of Today

Chapter 6


I The chief points to be dealt with in this chapter
would be the sack of the Srirangam temple in 1311 on the occasion of the
M invasion of Ma’bar by Malik Kafur, and in 1323 in the course of the invasion
N of the same territory by Ulugh Khan. The first happened during the reign of
U Alauddin Khilji and the second during that of Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlak. The
first was a mere raid and did not seriously affect the religious life of
Srirangam. When the raiders withdrew a new image was installed and routine
worship was revived. The second sack had different effects. As the object
was empire (???) and not mere plunder Ma’bar was occupied and converted
into a province of the Delhi Sultanate. The temple was occupied by the
Muslim solidiery and used as a fort for a time, after which, it would appear
they were persuaded to abanded the temple and occupy the fortress of
Kannanur. The temple was restored only in 1371 by the generals of

The rulers of the region were the Pandya princes. The Srirangam
temple contains inscriptions of Sundara Pandya (acc.1303) and Maravarman
Kulasekhara (acc.1314) extending over the period 1313-19. They deal with
the foundation of Kodandarama-caturvedimangalam in Srirangam. The mutual
rivalries among the Pandya princes invited the intervention of the
neighbouring Ravivarman Kulasekhara, the Cera. We have the inscriptions of
this king in the Srirangam temple ranging from 1312 to 1315. These
register his settlement of Brahmanas in yet another colony in his own name in
Srirangam, viz., Ravivarma-caturvedimangalam. Towards the end of the
chapter is given an account of the Vaisnava Acaryas, who both administered
the darsana and controlled the temple of Srirangam. This covers the period
from Bhattar (the successor of Ramanuja) to Vedantadesika, roughly from
1150 to 1324.

Malik Kafur’s Raid, 1311

After reducing the double walled fort of Warrangal in February 1310

and after seizing its buried treasures Malik Kafur returned to Delhi.
Immediately he turned back to lead his devastating expeditions against
Dwarasamudra and Madura which lay farther south. Hoysala Ballala III
pocketed his pride and surrendered to the invader without fighting. He also
suffered the indignity of being forced by Kafur to guide his army into
Ma’bar, the country of the Pandya, through secret passages without exciting
the suspicion of its ruler or his subjects.

To the Muslim historians the Tamil country was known as, Ma’bar
(meaning in arabic ‘passage’ or ‘ferry’ and to foreign travelers like Marco
Polo signified the coastline with it shinter land in South India, extending,
from ‘Kulam (Quilon) to Nilawar (Nellore)’. The frontiers of Ma’bar were
reached by the armies of Malik Kafur on the 15 March 1311. In Ma’bar
things did not happen as he would have liked. The Pandya chieftains, under
the command of Vira Pandya took to guerilla tactics. There were no pitched
battles, no sieges of forts and Kafur could not capture Vira Pandya and
impose on him his usual humiliating conditions. This caused no small irritation
to Kafur and he spent his wrath on the ancient and glorious temples of South
India by giving full reins to his iconoclastic zeal.

The route taken by Malik Kafur from Dwarasamudra is thus described

by Amir Khusru (Tarik-I-Alai): “On Wednesday, the 18th of Shawwal, the
Malik beat his drums, and loaded his camels for his expedition to Ma’bar
from Dhur-Samundar. In this range there are two passes - one Sarmali
(also Tarmali) and the other Tabar. After traversing the passes they
arrived at night on the banks of the river Kanobari (also Kanauri i.e.,
Kaveri) and bivouacked on the sands. Thence they departed for Birdhul, and
committed massacre and devastated all around it. The Rai Bir showed an
intent of flying for security to his islands in the ocean, but as he was not
able to attempt this, his attendants counselled him to fly by land. With a
small amount of treasure and property, he deserted the city and fled to
Kandur, and even there he dared not remain, but again fled to the jungles.”1
(Elliot and Dowson. III, p.9.) Of the two passes mentioned Tabar refers to
the famous Toppur ghats between Dharmapuri and Omalur in the Salem
district.2 (Dr.S.Krishnaswamy Aiyangar, South India and her Muhammadan
Invaders, p.103) It was at this point that Malik Kafur crossed into the
Tamil country from Mysore. On the 5th Zi-ul-Qa’da (26th March 1311) the
army made a dash in a north eastern direction straight to Birdhul (also called
Pattan or Fattan), which has been identified with Vira-Dhavalapattanam on
the coast in the Tindivanam Taluk of the South Arcot district, the same as
Markanam of today.3 (Dr.N.Venkataramanayya Early Muslim Expansion in
South India, (pp.46-7); see also his article on ‘Birth-Dhul’ in JAHARS.
XIII.1-5. It is to be noted that a Srirangam epigraph (79 of 1938-39)
refers to the enthronement of Sundara Pandya at Vira-Dhavalam. 319 or
1929-20 refers to Vira-Dhavalam in Uraiyurkurram, a subdivision of
Tenkarai Raja Gambhira-valanadu (ARE 1938-39, pt.II, para 8) Kandur is
undoubtedly Kannanur (Khandanapura of the Sanskrit writers). Isamy refers
to it as Kupan (Kuppam i.e., Kannanur-koppam). Malik kafur pursued the
fugitive monarch to Kannanur but was sorely distressed by a constant
downpour of rain which caused great discomfort to the Muslim soldiery. “The
water rendered the bows ineffective…..; it got in between the arrow and its
(iron) point and separated them from one another; it also whispered
something into the ‘ears’ of the bows and untwisted their strings.”4 (Khusru:
Khaza ‘in-ul-Futuh’, JIH, IX, p.90.) Despite the rains Kafur continued his
march in search of Vira Pandya. Ultimately after a dreary and disconsolate
march Kafur reached Kannanur and reduced the fortress after a fierce
struggle. But even here, the Pandya eluded him. He had escaped. After
fruitless searches in impenetrable forests the army of Malik Kafur returned
to Kandur.

“Here”, continues Amir Khusru, “he (Kafur) heared that in

Brahmastpuri there was a golden idol, round which many elephants were
stabled. The Malik started on a night expedition against this place and in the
morning seized no less than 250 elephants.”5 (Elliot and Dowson III, p.90.)
Now what is Brahmastpuri? Dr.N.Venkataramanayya has shown that
Brahmastpuri of Elliot was a corruption of Barmatpuri, which in its turn was
a corruption of Marhatpuri and has said that Marhatpuri is identical with
Marakatanagari mentioned in Gangadevi’s Maduravijayam, and this was
perhaps another name for Kanci.6 (Jahars III, pp.112.) According to
Dr.S.Krishnaswami Ayyangar Markatanagari was Virinchipuram,7
(Dr.S.K.Ayyangar Sources of Vijayanagar History, p.23.) near Vellore. At
this place, according to the Maduravijayam Kumara Kampana is said to have
spent the rainy and winter seasons before advancing against the Sultan of
Madurai. The poem itself does not furnish a definite clue for its
identification. The statement of Amir Khusru, however, that at Kannanur
Malik Kafur heard of the golden temple (Marhatpuri is very often referred
to as the golden temple by Amir Khusru and Isamy) and reached it after a
night expedition raises the doubt whether Marhatpuri was not Srirangam. If
so the object of the night march over a distance of five miles south from
Kannanur to Srirangam was obviously to take the golden temple by surprise.
The golden idol referred to might very well have been that of
Hemaccadanaraja - Hari, “which consisted of gold to the tips of its nails”,
set up by Jatavarman Sundara Pandya I in the Srirangam temple. Only fifty
years ago this Pandya had filled the temple with the richest gifts and
rendered it literally golden. The vimanas of the main shrine and those of
Narasimha and Visvaksena were covered with gold. In connection with these
and other benefactions he assumed the significant title “he who covered the
Srirangam temple with gold (Koil-ponmeindaruliya)”. It is possible that in the
days of Malik Kafur Srirangam had become widely known as the ‘golden
temple’. On these grounds it may reasonably be suggested that Marhatpuri
or the golden temple of the Muslim historians was Srirangam. That
Marhatpuri was the Muslim writers’ name for Marakatanagari is undoubtedly
a specious argument. Here the following point may be considered. One of the
Pandya’s luxurious gifts to the God Ranganatha was a garland of emeralds
taken from the treasure of the Kadava chief of Sendamangalam, whom he
vanquished in battle. In connection with this gift he assumed the title
Marakataprithvibhrit (the emerald king).8 (See above under the Caption
Sundara Jatavarma Pandya I and the Srirangam Temple in Ch; V.) Is it not
probable that this gift also gave its name to Srirangam which came to be
called hence ‘Marakatanagari’ (emerald city), perhaps for a brief period?

The destruction of the golden temple is thus described in the Tarikh-

I-Alai “He (Kafur) then determined on razing the beautiful temple to the
ground. You might say that it was the Paradise of Shaddad, which after
being lost, those “hellites’ had found, and that it was the Golden Lanka of
Ram - in short, it was the holy place of the Hindu, which the Malik dug up
from its foundations with great care and the heads of the Brahmans and
idolaters danced from their necks and fell to the ground at their feet, and
blood flowed in torrents. The stone idols called Ling Mahadeo, which had been
a long time established at that place, up to this time the kick of the horse
of Islam had not attempted to break. The Musalmans destroyed all the
Lings, and Deo Narain fell down, and the other gods who had fixed their
seats there raised their feet, and jumped so high, that at one leap they
reached the fort of Langa, and in that affright on. Much gold and many
valuable jewels fell into the hands of the Musalmans, who returned to the
royal canopy, after executing their holy project, on the 13th Zi-l-ka’ da
A.H.710 (April 1311)”. This account, no doubt, is a fanciful and
exaggerated one Dr.S.Krishnaswamy Ayyangar, who first attempted an
identification of Marhatpuri with Srirangam later on rejected it on the plea
that Srirangam was purely a Vaisnava shrine while both Ling Mahadeo and
Deo Narain are mentioned in the above account and was inclined to associate
the temple looted with that at Cidambaram, which contained both Saiva and
Vaisnava shrines. This, however, is wrong because the Govindaraja shrine
had ceased to exist at this time in Cidambaram.9 (Dr.S.K.Ayyangar, South
India and her Muhammadan invaders, pp.108-9; the Govindaraja shrine,
desecrated by Kulottunga II was restored during the late Vijayanagar
period.) Even crediting Amir Khusru with a fine sense of distinction between
Saiva and Vaisnava shrines, still we cannot ignore the supposition that Malik
Kafur, who came as far as Kannanur and Srirangam could have hardly missed
the Saiva temple of Jambukesvaram within a stone’s throw of the Vaisnava
temple of Srirangam.

The Koil-Olugu’s account

The Koil-Olugu recognises clearly two Muslim advances upon Srirangam

distinct from each other. On each occasion the procession image of
Ranganatha, viz., Alagiyamanavalan, was removed from the temple, and the
fortunes of the temple parijanas or servants fleeting with the sacred idol, in
each case are traced in considerable detail. Two distinct restorations by two
different persons are mentioned. The account of the first sack of the
temple opens with the statement that ‘Dillisvaran (the king of Delhi), having
defeated Prataparudra in battle, invaded Tondaimandalam and solamandalam’
A general destruction of temples and plunder of its valuable idols followed.
The Muslims entered the Srirangam temple through the northern
Aryabhattal gateway (i.e., the northern gateway of the third enclosure).
The resistance of the Brahmanas was easily overcome, the treasury, the
store-house, etc., were plundered and images of Alagiyamanavalan,
Cerakulavalli and other gods and goddesses were taken away. The loot must
have included the gold image of Visnu, a benefaction of Jatavarman Sundara
Pandya I.

An interesting episode, which cannot stand the test of historical

criticism, is cleverly woven round the loss and restoration of the image of
Alagiyamanavalan. A woman of Karambanur, near Srirangam, it is said,
observed the vow of taking her food only after worshipping the God of
Srirangam. When that God was snatched away by the Muslims she followed
their armies upto Delhi and entered the Sultan’s palace in disguise. There
she found that a daughter of the Sultan - Sultani - had taken a fancy for
the Ranganatha idol and was keeping it with herself. The woman of
Karambanur quickly returned to Srirangam and informed the Stalattar of the
whereabouts of the image and earned for herself the name of ‘Pincenravalli,
i.e., ‘she who followed (the God)’. The Stalattar of the temple buried the
image of Sriranga Nacciyar beneath the bilva tree near Her shrine, closed
the doors of the temple and under their orders sixty parijanas of the
temple followed the lead of Pincenravalli to Delhi. There they saw how
“Alagiyamanavalan was capriciously playing with the Sultani in the form of an
idol during the day time and in His Vibhava manifestation in the night, in all
splendour ….. With the temple singer in the fore they attracted the
pleasure of the monarch of Delhi by means of their song and dance. The king
was much pleased and offered them enormous treasure, but the singer,
refusing it, requested him to give him the image of Alagiyamanavalan. The
king ordered his servants to allow the temple parivaras to take the idol they
wanted from the store house. But on searching the store house they missed
the Perumal and felt sorely vexed. On hearing from Pincenravalli, they said
to the king, “Our Perumal is in the possession of your daughter,” to which
the king replied, “call back your god if you can”. Consequently, when the
temple singer invoked Alagiyamanavala Perumal in intense and divine melody,
the god brought sleep to the girl and started. When the singer informed the
Sultan about this, he with wonder, allowed the parivaras to take back their
God. Immediately they took the Perumal and, on that very night, rapidly
covered a distance of 8 miles”.10 (KO., p.26.) The Sultani, who could not
bear separation from her favourite idol urged her father to send an army
behind the parijanas to recover it and bring it back to her. Accordingly an
army of search was dispatched from Delhi, three days after an advance
party had left, to pursue the fleeing temple servants, and the princes
accompanied this army. News reached the parijanas, as they were
approaching Chandragiri, that they were being pursued. At once they
dispersed themselves, and three of them, belonging to that class of temple-
servants called the Kodavar, and who were related to each other as uncle,
(his) brother-in-law and nephew, were entrusted with the sacred idol. These
three ascended the slopes of the Vengadam hills and concealed the idol in a
lonely glen hidden amidst thick jungles. The Muslim search party missed the
Perumal on its way and finally it reached Srirangam. The temple was
deserted and the gateway to the main shrine was barred by a stone slab. It
was reported that the Perumal had not yet arrived. The Sultani, “whose life
was sustained solely by the hope of seeing the Perumal”, died in Srirangam.
The theme developed is one of intense love of the Muslim princess for the
Hindu God.

In the meanwhile the Stalattar of Srirangam grew tired of waiting for

the return of the Perumal. At last they made and consecrated fresh images
of the God and Goddess and renewed worship as of old. A fresh image of
the Nacciyar was also found necessary because the original image of the
Goddess, which was buried beneath the bilva tree outside Her shrine, when
the temple was deserted, was sorely missed when the Stalattar thought of
reinstalling it and explored the place.
The Muslim armies, on their way back to Delhi, “reached Tirupati and
heard that the Perumal had gone up the hills. From the foot of the hills
they deputed many men to make an extensive search for the Perumal. Not
finding a secret place, in that region, where they could safely keep the
Perumal concealed, the Kodavar thought of a plan. Placing his brother-in-law
and nephew on the top the hill, the uncle tied himself to the Perumal with
the help of roots and herbs and asked the two on the top to let him down
into a declivity by means of a creeper fastened to a promontory of the
mountain, jutting out like the hood of a serpent. In course of time his body
perished ….. The brother-in-law and the nephew got down the slope with the
help of plants and creepers, worshipped the Perumal, cremated the body of
the dead uncle, and remained unknown on the slopes to the north of
Alarmelmangaipuram, (Mangapuram, near Chandragiri). The brother-in-law
too died, in course of time The newphew, however, remained unseen, with
the Perumal, for a long time, living on roots and fruits.”11 (KO.pp.27-8. It
is likely that the cave at Tumburukona, at an elevation of 2250’, is the one
referred to by the Olugu, (T.K.T.Viraraghavacharya, History of Tirupati,
Vol.1, pp.10-11 (T.T.Devasthanams, Tirupati, 1953.)

The period of the exile of the Perumal is said to be “fifty-nine-and-

a-half years, of which two years were spent in the palace of the Sultan.”12
(Ibid., pp.28-29) At the end of this period the nephew, now an old man of
80, was found by two Irulas or hunters, whom he requested to make
arrangements for the removal of the image to Srirangam. This news reached
the chieftain of the neighbouring Candragiri and with his help the old Kodavar
reached Srirangam with the image of Alagiyamanavalan. The inhabitants of
Srirangam, however, had forgotten everything about the Muslim invasion and
the exile of the original image with the result that the poor Kodavar, who
had guarded the image for 58 years, was refused admission into the temple
and the image in his possession was not recognised Mysteriously enough the
crown of the image of Sriranga Nacciyar became visible, beneath the bilva
tree, on the day after the arrival of the Kodavar and the Perumal. This was
entirely missed when it was searched during the restoration. The Parijanas
of the temple were greatly surprised something to do with the newly arrived
image. They took the matter to the king, who is called Rajendra Cola. This
Cola visited the temple and with a view to ascertain the truth of the
Kodavar’s story instituted a search for octogenarians in Srirangam and came
across a 93 years old washerman, who was blind. He identified the image
with the Kodavar as the original one by taking in the Iravadai tirtam (wet
cloth tirtham) of both the Perumal (i.e., the original and the substitute). He
exclaimed in joy, “It is He, Our Perumal. (Nam Perumal) Alagiyamanavalan!”
exclaimed in joy, “It is He, Our Perumal. (Nam Perumal) Alagiyamanavalan!”
To him the identification was possible because he had served the original
Perumal as His washerman. Thus convinced the Cola reinstalled the original
images of the Perumal and the Nacciyar and also erected a shrine for the
Sultani, who had shown great devotion to the God, in the north-western
corner of the raised ‘procession path’ in the second (Rajamahendran)
enclosure. In this shrine an image of the princess was painted on the wall
and consecrated. He also made arrangements for the daily offering of
wheat-bread, etc., appropriate to a Muslim princess, who became a Hindu
deity, under the name of Bibi Nacciyar or Sandu Nacciyar, and endowed two
villages in Koranadu for her. The Olugu ends up this account by saying that
all these details had been inscribed on the Sandu Nacciyar shrine and that
they were destroyed when the Citra mantapa was reconstructed.13 (Ibid.,

From the mention of Rajendra Cola we can easily judge that no

inscription of the type stated above could ever have existed. We know that
the reign of Rajendra III, the last of the Colas, after whom there was not
even a ghost of the Cola Kingdom, came to an end in 1279, and it is a sheet
impossibility to connect a reigning Cola king with a date so far removed as
say 1371 (i.e., 60 years after the flight of the Perumal). The period of an
exile of 60 years, at the end of which the new generation in Srirangam did
not believe the story of exile related by the old Kodavar, furnishes the clue.
The final restoration and reconsecration of the Ranganatha image according
to Gopanarya’s inscription in the Srirangam temple took place in 1371. The
raid which is said to have occurred 60 years earlier brings us to Malik
Kafur'’ invasion. In a different context the Olugu deals elaborately with the
second sack of the temple (1323) and the restoration effected by the
generals of Vijayanagar. Obviously the chronicler has given two different
accounts of one and the same restoration, i.e., the one effected in 1371.

Whatever might be the truth of the story of Pincenravalli and the

Sultani, who fell in love with the divine image, the shrine of Bibi Nacciyar or
Tulukka Nacciyar in the Srirangam temple is a standing testimony to this
tradition.14 (Apart from the Olugu this tradition is preserved in a Telugu
folk-song called the ‘Suratani-Kalyanamu’.) This is also common to a few
other Vaisnava temples of South India that had suffered at the hands of
the Muslims. The mention of an inscription of Rajendra Cola assignable to a
date, say, 1371 clearly stamps the account in the Olugu as unhistorical. It
is clearly a piece of legend, grown up in a later day, around memories of the
Muslim invasions and sack of Srirangam, and is of considerable interest to a
student of folk-lore. Epigraphy furnishes no details of the Bibi Nacciyar
shrine and it is not known when it was constructed. We also do not know
which came first, the legend or the shrine. Like the stories of Euhemerus,
the Sicilian author of the 4th century BC, the legend of Bibi Nacciyar might
have come first and this was perhaps, in course of time, crystallised into a

The Inscriptions of Ravivarman Kulasekhara and Sundara Pandya (acc.1303)

in the Srirangam temple: 1312-16.

It is well known that Malik Kafur’s Ma’bari expedition was, from the
beginning to the end, a political failure; for not only did he not succeed in
defeating and taking captive the crowned king of Ma’bar, viz., the Pandya,
but he actually suffered a defeat at the hands of his enemies. The hero,
who rose to the occasion was Vikrama, the brother of Maravarman
Kulasekhara II (acc.1268). He defeated Kafur in a battle and the latter
retired for good, taking with him the booty that he had plundered in the
course of his vandalistic march. This victory, however, did not improve the
position of the Pandyas, whose feuds continued as of old. So far at the
Srirangam temple was concerned pujas and festivals were once again started
and celebrated with the help of the substitute utsava-bera of Ranganatha
called by the Koil-Olugu Tiruvaranga-maligaiyar, i.e., the God of the
Srirangam temple.

The dominant figure on the stage of South Indian politics after Malik
Kafur’s invasion was Ravivarman Kulasekhara alias Sangramadhira. From his
Kanci and Srirangam epigraphs we know that he was born in S.1188
(A.D.1266), that he married a Pandya princess, became supreme over
Kerala when he was 33 years old (1299), defeated Vira Pandya and
extended his sway over the Pandya and Cola countries, and crowned himself
king on the banks of the Vegavati, flowing near Kanci, in his 46th year
(1312).15 (EI. IV pp.145, 148.) In that same year and later (1312-16)
we find him active in Srirangam making rich gifts to Ranganatha, his tutelary
deity, and we also find inscriptions of Sundara Pandya (acc.1303) of the
same period (1312-15) in the Srirangam temple, which show that the
relationship between these two in this period was one of friendship. An
inscription in the Srirangam temple of the 9th year of Perumal Sundara
Pandya (1312) registers that on the representation made by several persons
Ravivarman Kulasekhara, called here Venattadigal, (the king of Venad) made
a gift of sites, after purchase, to the temple of Ravinarayana Perumal and
to several bhattas colonising the village Ravivarma-Caturvedimangalam newly
founded by him. Since Ravivarman figures in this inscription only as donor and
not as king it has to be supposed that his visit to Srirangam on this
occasion, was perhaps on the eve of his coronation at Kanci the same
year.16 (40 of 1936-37.) We have three Tamil records of Ravivarman
Kulasekhara in the Srirangam temple. In these he assumes the familiar Cola
and Pandya titles Tribhuvanacakravartin and Konerimaikondan. As king he is
seen making further gifts to his colony in Srirangam and endowments to the
temple of Ravinarayana Perumal consecrated therein by him. Of the three
records one is dated in his 3rd year (1315.) 17 (39 of 1936-37.) It
records a tax-free gift of 25 velis of land in the village of Todaiyur,
Nattunangudi and Malavanur on the northern bank of the Kaveri (Vadakarai
Rajarajavalanadu) for the Caturvedimangalam and the temple. Another is
dated in his 4th year (1316.)18 (37 of 1936-37.) It registers a remission
of taxes on 5 velis of lands granted to the bhattas of Ravivarma-
Caturvedimangalam. In this epigraph it is stated that the agrahara and the
temple therein were founded in the 3rd year of the king (1315). This means
that he had purchased the sites and bestowed them upon the bhattas and
made other arrangements for the formation of a colony in his name in 1312
under the authority of Sundara Pandya and that the agrahara and the
temple received official recognition only in 1315 when he was king. The other
inscription, also dated in his 4th year, says that the order (terippu)
communicating the royal sanction to the gift mentioned in the above epigraph
was issued while the king was camping at Kannanur.19 (38 of 1936-37.) The
Sanskrit inscription of Ravivarman Kulasekhara in the Srirangam temple may
be assigned to 1315-16, during which year he seems to have stayed in
Srirangam, where he is said to have made “an abode of the God” and to have
given “a delightful residence” to the God.20 (46 of 1891; EI. IV.; p.148)
Obviously this refers to the foundation of the Ravivarma Caturvedimangalam
and the consecration of Ravinarayana Perumal therein. He is also said to
have performed a dipotsava for Ranganatha and to have provided for the
distribution of 100 panas each to 50 learned men every year on the
asterism Satabisaj.

The following are the inscriptions in the Srirangam temple of Sundara

Pandya (acc.1303) and Maravarman Kulasekhara II (acc.1314) dealing with
the foundation in Srirangam of yet another agrahara. In his 10th year
(1313) we find Sundara Pandya actively engaged in the foundation of an
agrahara and shrine in his own name. The inscription dated in his 10th year
registers tax free gifts of 670 ma of land to several bhattas and others
colonising the agrahara called Kodandarama-Caturvedimangalam newly founded
in the name of the king in Tiruvarangam Tirupati, a subdivision of
Padikulapativalanadu, on the southern bank (of the Kaveri)s and a further
Padikulapativalanadu, on the southern bank (of the Kaveri)s and a further
gift of 30 ma of land for offerings and worship to God Laksminarayana
Perumal consecrated in that colony.21 (18 of 1936-37, pt.II, para 43; see
also ARE 1918, Pt.II, para 50. 1 ma = 100 kulis = 1/20th of a veli (one
veli approximating to 6.74 acres). ‘Kodandarama’ was a well known title of
this Pandya king.) An inscription dated in his 11th year (1314) records a
gift of land to the sabha of Jagadekavira Caturvedimangalam in exchange for
3 velis of land required for the temple of Kodandarama-
caturvedimangalam.22 (29 of 1936-37.) Next year, i.e., according to the
inscription of the king dated in his 12th year (1315) and engraved in
continuation of the inscription of his 10th year mentioned above; the king
made another tax-free gift of 106 ma of land in the same agaram to the
bhattas and to God Kodandarama Perumal (perhaps the same as
Laksminarayana Perumal, now called after the king’s surname.23 (19 of
1936-37.) Two more records of the king dated in the same year, register
further gifts of land to the bhattas of the colony and the God, Kodandarama
perumal.24 (20 and 21 of 1936-37.) When the bhattas of the new colony
purchased some lands on their own account they were also made tax free.25
(22 of 1936-37.)

The inscriptions in the Srirangam temple of Maravarman Kulasekhara

II (acc.1314), one of which is dated in his 3rd year (1317), refer to
further acquisition of lands by the bhattas of Kodandarama-
Caturvedimangalam by purchase. It is interesting to note that two shrines of
the Srirangam temple sold their own lands to the bhattas of the new colony.
Two records register the sale of garden lands to these bhattas by the
officials of the Eduttakai Alagiya-Nainar shrine and the Sriranga Nacciyar
shrine.26 (23 and 26 of 1936-37.) Among individuals who sold garden lands
to the colonists were Srivaikuntadasar of Tirumeyam, Piraguvali Nittan alias
Koilponmeinda Perumal-dasa; Arulalapperumal alias Piraguvali
Alagiyaperumaal-dasa and Karumanikkal van alias Anukkavillidase, the last
three dasas being the dasanambis of Tiruvarangam Tirupati.27 (24, 25, 27
and 28 of 1936-37.) A set of two inscriptions in this series are dated in
the 5th year of Kulasekhara (1319) and furnish important details of the
location of the colony, the number of the colonists and the name of Pandya
officer, who founded the colony.28 (115 and 116 of 1938-39; pt.II, para
33.) They purport to be an order issued by God Ranganatha assigning the
food offered to the God during the two services Ponmeyndan-sandi and
Kodandaraman-sandi to the 48 bhattas of Kodandaramacaturvedi-mangalam
round the Vellaimurram mantapa near the Ellaikkarai, founded by
Karumanikkalvan of Pandimandalam. The second record, amplifying the first,
states that the agrahara was formed for the welfare of Perumal Sundara
states that the agrahara was formed for the welfare of Perumal Sundara
Pandya and also makes reference to the two services, one as a recent
institution (Kodandaraman-sandi) and the other as an earlier one. It also
gives details regarding the concessions granted to the bhattas in the
distribution of the offerings referred to above.

The foundation of agraharas by kings in Srirangam by making gifts of

lands and house-sites to bhattas or learned Brahmanas, who probably had
their services in the great Vaisrava temple, immediately before and after
Malik Kafur’s raid shows, as suggested earlier, that the prosperity of the
temple, testified to by the inscription of Jatavarman Sundara Pandya I,
continued unabated in spite of the political vicissitudes that followed his
glorious reign. The temple was expanding in size and activity and was
attracting more and more devotees, in general, and Srivaisnavas, in
particular, who sought service in general, and Srivaisnavas, in particular, who
sought service in the temple. The foundation of new Brahmana colonies in the
temple town at the initiative of pious kings was clearly a symbol of this

During the interval between Malik Kafur’s raid (1311) and the
expedition of Ulugh Khan (1323) the political conditions of Ma’bar remained
unchanged. The civil war between Sundara Pandya and Vira Pandya continued.
An army of Hoysala Ballala III came to the help of Vira Pandya and was
defeated (1318). Sundara Pandya himself had been defeated by Ravivarman
Kulasekhara in a battle (c.1316) and the Kerala ruler was triumphantly ruling
from Kanci but his own success was short-lived. An inscription in the
Srirangam temple of Kakatiya Prataparudra, dated S.1239 (A.D.1317)
states that his commander Devari Nayaka, son of Macya Nayaka, marched
with an army to the south against the Panca Pandyas, defeated Vira Pandya
and the Malayala-Tiruvadi Kulasekhara at Tiruvadikundram and established
Sundara Pandya at Vira Dhavalam in Uraiyur-Kurtam. The last two lines of
this record are highly damaged and suggest some sarvamanya (rent-free)
gift (of land), evidently to God Ranganatha, details of which are lost.29 (79
of 1938-39; pt.II para 8. Devari Nayudu or Nayaningaru was a general of
Muppidi Nayaka.)

The Koil-Olugu makes mention of a few structures of the shrine of

Eduttakai Alagiya Nainar in the Srirangam temple as the benefactions of a
Cera, king of the Malayala country, most probably Ravivarman
Kulasekhara.30 (KO p.21.)

Ulugh Khan’s expedition (1323) and the second sack of the Srirangam
Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlak (1320-25) realised the futility of seeking to
maintain the allegiance of distant provinces by occasional military raids, and
decided not only to conquer the entire peninsula of South India but to impose
over every part of it effective military and administrative control. He made
Ulugh Khan, his eldest son and heir to the throne, the commander of an
expeditionary force, which first put down a rebellion in Maharastra and then
marched upon Warangal. The attack on Warangal failed (1321). Next year
another expedition was organised and Prataparudra, who did not expect it,
was surprised and defeated. Warangal fell. In 1323 Ulugh Khan marched
against Ma’bar. The Maduraittalavaralaru and the Madurai-stanikar-varalaru
mention Ani of Rudhirodgari as the month and year of the Muslim invasion
(June 1323), though they furnish wrong saka dates, viz., S.1246, Aksaya
as the year of the Muslim invasion. Aksaya corresponds to Saka 1248 and
not 1249. The Sriranga Narayana Jiyar Guruparamparai gives the correct
date for this invasion, viz., S.1245 (A.D.1323).

An important event in the history of Vaisnavism as maintained by the

Vaisnava tradition is the Muslim sack of Srirangam and the consequent
perigrinations of the Ranganatha image. All the Vaisnava hagiologies refer to
the Muslim occupation of the Srirangam temple, the Guruparamparai
(Vadakalai and Tenkalai versions), the Prapannamritam, the Telugu hagiology,
viz., Acaryasukti Muktavali and the Koil-Olugu give interesting details of the
invasion, which is referred to in connection with the lives of Pillai Lokacarya
and Vedantadesika. From the dates given by these hagiologies to these
Acaryas it could be ascertained that the invasion referred to by them was
that undertaken in 1323.

The Koil-Olugu gives the following account of Srirangaraja Nathan

Vaduladesika, who was in charge of the Srikaryam of the Srirangam temple
at the time of the Muslim invasion. “Subsequent to the collapse of the Cola
kingdom Pancatiruvadi Muttukrishnaraja became king, and under his patronage
Iyan Ramanujacaryar, a Vaduladesika, gloriously conducted the affairs of the
temple. His son was Tirukkopurattu Nainar, who was in-charge of the
Srikaryam for a long time during the reign of Narasimharaja. The second son
of Tirukkopurattu Nainar, by name Siddhannar, succeeded to the seat of
Vaduladesika and conducted various festivities for the God under the
patronage of Pancatiruvadi Kesavaraja. The son and successor of Siddhannar
was Srirangarajanathan Vaduladesika, of much wisdom and devotion, who
contributed largely to the expansion of ‘Srirangasri, under the patronage of
Pancatiruvadi Virapparaja. For a long time he was childless and ultimately,
due to devine favour, a son was born to him. This was in Saka 1249,
Aksaya, when it was said that the Muslims had occupied Tondaimandalam.”31
(KO.125-27) It is possible that a descendant of Mudaliyandan, with the
title of Vaduladesika, was in charge of the Srikaryam of the temple in the
days of the Muslim invasion, but the names of his and his forefathers’
patrons, which clearly recall the names of the Nayak kings or their
feudatories, have to be given up as groundless.32 (It is clear that this part
of the Olugu was written or rewritten or added during or after the period of
the Nayaks.)

The narrative that follows is found in all the hagiologies mentioned

above. When the news of the coming of the Muslims reached Srirangam a
festival was being conducted in the course of which the procession image of
Ranganatha (Alagiyamanavalam) was taken to the shrine of Varahamurti
(Panriyalvan) on the banks of the Coleroon, a little away from the main
temple of Srirangam. A lot was cast to ascertain whether the God willed to
stay where He was or betake himself to a place of safety. The God
preferred to remain where He was. Hence the festival was continued.
Before long news was brought that the Muslims were advancing past Kannanur
or Samayapuram. Srirangarajanathan Vaduladesika realised that no time was
to be lost and, commanding the 12,000 ascetics, who had assembled in
Tiruvolakkam (Congregation of hymnists), no to disperse he sent away
secretly the procession image of Ranganatha in a tiny palanquin in a southern
direction under the guidance of Pillai Lokacarya and a few parijanas. He
rushed to Srirangam and despatched similarly the image of Sriranga Nacciyar
and few boxes of treasure and jewels under a few attendants probably in
the rear of the first party of flight. He locked the doors of the sanctum,
barred the doorways of the shrines of both the god and the goddess with
stones and placed pseudo-images in the mantapas opposite and then
proceeded to the shrine of Panviyavlan.33 (Two mula beras are found in the
Nacciyar shrine. It is possible that one is the image that was walled up
during the raid.) By this time the invaders had reached the spot and
desecrated that shrine. The Koil-Olugu says that the 12,000 ascetics were
killed, and refers to this incident as the Panriyalvan-tirumottu mahakalatham
(The invasion of Panriyalvan Tirumedu) and Pannirayiramtirumudi-tiruttina-
kalabham (the invasion which took 12,000 heads). Vedantadesika, who was in
Srirangam at this time, managed to escape with the two little sons of
Sudarsana Bhatta, the author of the Srutaprakasika, and a single
manuscript of his famous commentary on Ramanuja’s Sribhasya and betake
himself through forests to the distant Satyamangalam on the border of
Mysore.34 (The Koil-Olugu which deals with an accredited Tenkalai Vaisnava
temple, omits all mention of Vedantadesika, who has come to be the head of
temple, omits all mention of Vedantadesika, who has come to be the head of
the Vadakalai sect. The Prapannamritam, e.g., says that Lokacarya and
others took the sacred idols and escaped by way of Gostipura, under the
direction of Vedantadesika, who walled up the garbagriha and himself
prepared to escape. There is also a tradition that in the moment of peril he
saved himself by hiding beneath a mass of dead bodies.) The Muslim chief
proceeded to the Srirangam temple and occupied it.

The wanderings of the Ranganatha image are sketched in great detail

in the Koil-Olugu and other works. The travels of the image from Srirangam
and back involved a big journey in a circle comprising the whole of South
India and this was perhaps undertaken with the avowed intention of avoiding
the interior districts, which were being over-run by the invaders. The route
adopted by the fugitives is easily told. Leaving Srirangam they proceeded
due South and passing through the former Pudukottah state reached
Gostipura or Tirukkottiyur, 7 miles south of Tiruppattur in the Ramnad
district. From Gostipura they came further south to Jyotiskudi, which has
been identified with Jyotismatipura or Kalaiyarkoil in the same district.35
(Dr.S.Krishnaswami Ayyangar, South India and her Muhammadan invaders,
pp.163-64.) On the way the jewels of the God and the valuable belongings
of Lokacarya were all taken away by robbers. In the course of a month’s
stay here Pillai Lokacarya is said to have died distressed by the news of the
woes suffered by his own kith and kin at Srirangam. Leaving Jyotiskudi they
turned west and reached the famous Vaisnava shrine of Tirumalirumsolai
(Alagarkoil), 12 miles north of Madurai, where the idol was kept for a year.
From Alagarkoil they were obliged to flee in a north-western direction until
they reached Kolikodu (Calicut), where they found many refugees like
themselves, carrying the fugitive gods from the various sacred shrines in
South India. Prominent mention is made of the image of Nammalvar from
Tirunagari which was taken under the protection of the party carrying
Alagiyamanavalan. The party stayed in Calicut for a year. From there they
journeyed on in a north eastern direction and reached Tirukkinambi, an
important Vaisnava shrine in the Gundlupet Taluk in the extreme south of
Mysore state. A Tirukkinambi the image of Nammalvar was installed in the
local temple and, after a stay of many days, the fugitive of Srirangam
proceeded in the same direction covering vast distances through jungles to
avoid capture. Ultimately they reached Punganur in the Chittoor district and
bordering on the Mysore State. At Punganur they sensed danger and were
obliged to fly back into the Mysore country. They stayed in the temple of
Tirunarayanapuram or Melukote (Seringapatam tq.), to the north of
Tirukkinambi, for a long time, and then made themselves bold to rush across
Mysore and the Cittoor district to Tirupati. In the shrine of Sri
Mysore and the Cittoor district to Tirupati. In the shrine of Sri
Venkateswara on the Tirupati hills the Ranganatha image was safely
deposited for a long time until it was taken back to Srirangam and reinstalled
there by the chiefs of Vijayanagar in 1371.

It is not possible to verify the actual details of the perigrinations of

the Ranganatha idol sketched above. The route adopted by the fugitives
clearly shows that the object of the latter was to keep as far away from
the Muslims as possible. Ultimately the image found shelter in Tirupati,
which shrine seems to have escaped the depradations of the advancing
invaders on both the occasions. Malik Kafur marched from Dwarasamudra to
Pattan (Viradhavalam) and thence to Kandur thus leaving Tirupati in the
north. The details of Ulugh Khan’s march on Ma’bar from Warangalare not
furnished by the Muslim historians and most probably he came to Pattan due
south from Warangal and then proceeded to Madurai thus leaving Tirupati in
the west. The Koil-Olugu, however, says (while adverting to the story of
the Sultani) that the Muslims heard at Srirangam that the Perumal was at
Tirupati and that they came to Tirupati and sent uphills several search
parties but could not find the Perumal. This account has to be treated on a
par with the story of the Sultani.

It would appear that Srirangam suffered twice (obviously in 1311 and

1323) as a result of the Muslim invasion and that the final restoration of
worship in the temple was effected only in 1371. After the first raid
worship was restored with the help of a substitute image the ‘Tiruvaranga
Maligaiyar’ of the Olugu. Even this had to leave the temple in 1323 and from
this date to 1371 there was no worship, as usual, in the temple. During this
period the Utsava bera (the procession image) was housed in Tirupati.
According to the Tirupati tradition the Ranganatha image was housed in the
Rangamandapam in the Tirumalai temple and as the God was staying as a
guest Tiruvaradana (i.e., puja and good-offering) was done first to Him and
certain prabandas considered dear to Him was recited in the presence of
Venkateswara of Tirumalai-Tirupati. Strictly speaking and on the basis of
historical evidence available, however, it is to be presumed that the image
first lost was lost for ever. The account of the first restoration (including
the stories of Pincenravalli and the Kodavar) is as much unhistorical as the
story of the Sultani. As stated earlier they belong to the realm of folk-lore
and mythology.36 (One of the bronzes kept in the sanctum of the Srirangam
temple and resembling the main procession image is called Tiruvaranga-
Maligaiyar and worship is offered to it as yajna murti along with other
smaller images for snanam, sayanam, bali and tirtam. This however does not
prove the story in the Olugu. It is possible that the original image was after
prove the story in the Olugu. It is possible that the original image was after

all secreted and saved some how on the first occasion and that this gave
rise in due course to the stories of Pincentravalli the Kodavar.

The Temple under Muslim occupation

Direct control was exercised over Ma’bar from Delhi between the
years 1324 and 1334. In the latter year the governor with headquarters at
Madurai, declared himself independent and thus founded the Kingdom of
Ma’bar. This kingdom or the Sultanate of Madurai was extinguished by the
rising tide of Vijayanagar in 1378. Parts of the kingdom had already been
overrun, eg., Srirangam had been taken in 1371 and the temple restored.

Some information about the Srirangam temple during the Muslim

occupation is furnished by the Koil-Olugu. The Muslim chief, it appears,
made the Alagiyamanavalan tirumantapa, opposite to the sanctum sanctorum,
his residence and from there ruled the villages surrounding Srirangam. One
of the temple courtesans, who fascinated the Muslim general dissuaded him
from destroying the temple completely and made him content himself with
the mutilation of the cornices of the various gopuras and mantapas of the
temple and a few images like the Dvarapalakas surrounding the central
shrine. The general, who was frequently attacked by disease as long as he
remained in the temple, quitted it in despair and lived in Kannanur, where he
pulled-down the walls of Poysalesvara temple and erected a fortress for
himself. The temple itself was converted into a mosque.37 (162 of 1936-
37, which states that the temple of Posalesvra Udaiyanar, which had been
converted into a mosque by the Tulukkar, was reconsecrated by Kampana
Udaiyar in the course of his victorious campaign.) A brahmana by name
Singappiran, a kaniyala of the temple (i.e., an officer exercising control over
the temple lands), who was interested in the safety of the temple and the
town, won the acquaintance of the chief through the temple courtesan, and
acting as his servant at the gate, safeguarded the precincts of the temple
as far as he could. With the disappearance of the procession images, the
original as well as the substitute, regular of Srirangam, it would appear, did
their best to attend on the sanctum image of Ranganatha (Periya Perumal)
by giving Him the holy bath and offering Him oblations, secretly or
otherwise, but were constantly harassed by the Muslims, who swarmed the
temple. The temple courtesan could not bear this. She attracted the Muslim
chief by means of her charms, took him up a gopura in the east, and, in the
act of showing to him the image of Paravasudeva (on the main vimana),
pushed him down. This killed him. Haunted by the fear of the consequences
of the sin of muder she too threw herself down, but did not die. “Later on,
when the other Muslim armies had fled, the parijanas opened the doors of
the temple and found life still lingering in the body of the dasi. Immediately
they all went to the Perumal and appealed to Him. Through the
instrumentality of an archaka the Perumal came to her and, with great
satisfaction, asked her what boon she wanted. She replied, ‘whenever any of
my creed dies the fire for cremation should be fetched from the temple
kitchen, and to them must be offered a certain quantity of rice from the
store house, and also tirtham, garland and parivattam’. Accordingly from
that day her requests are being fulfilled.”38 (KO pp.128-9, 134-5. This
account is also given in the Acaryasuktimuktavali, the Vaisnava hagiology in
Telugu by Namburi Kesavacaryai. This work says that the Muslim chief was
pushed down from the Vellagopuram. Dr.S.K.Ayyangar, Sources of
Vijayanagar History, p.p.40-45.) This account too, is best treated as
another Euhemerian legend, like that of the Sultani or Bibi Nacciyar, grown
up around memories of the Muslim occupation and chronicled in an obvious
attempt to cover up an otherwise humiliating picture.

The Prapannamrtam39 (a Vaisnava hagiology of the Vadakulai variety,

in Sanskrit written by Anantarya, a contemporary of Venkatapati Raya
(1585-1614). This gives an elaborate account of the sack of the temple and
wanderings of the Ranganathan idol. Dr.S.K.Ayyangar, Ibid., pp.34-40.)
says that a Dravida brahmana by name Narasimhadeva (‘Singappiran’ of the
Olugu) persuaded the Muslim conqueror to remove his headquarters from
Srirangam to Samayapuram (Kannanur) and had himself appointed as manager
of the Vaisnava shrine. As a result of his vigilance and caution the shrine
and its inhabitants were given some respite and it was possible for some of
the fugitives to return once more to their native homes.

The Vijayanagar chronicles corroborate, in a large measure, the

accounts of the hagiologies and they are more informative as regards the
restoration and re-consecration of the divine images, which would be
considered in the next chapter. The Madhuravijayam (by Gangadevi, wife of
Kampana, the son of Bukka I, describing his exploits in Ma’bar) gives the
following sketch of the state of temples and their environs in South India
during the Muslim rule: “The temples in the land have fallen into neglect as
worship in them has been stopped. Within their walls the frightful howls of
jackals have taken the place of the reverberations of the mridanga. Like
the Turuskas, who know no limits, the Kaveri has forgotten her ancient
boundaries and brings frequent destruction with her floods. The sweet odour
of the sacrificial smoke and the chant of the Vedas have deserted the
agraharas, which are now filled with the foul smell of roasted flesh and the
agraharas, which are now filled with the foul smell of roasted flesh and the

fierce noises of the ruffinaly Turuskas”. To put an end to this sort of

affairs Kampana undertook his southern expedition. Of Srirangam and
Jambukesvaram this work says: “The vimana of Srirangam is so dilapidated
that now it is the hood of Adisesa along that is protecting the image of
Ranganatha from the falling debris. The Lord of Gajaranya
(Jambukesvaram), who once killed an elephant to obtain its skin for his
garment, has now again been reduced to the same condition, because he has
been stripped of all clothing.”

Ramanuja to Vedantadesika

As the Srirangam temple happened to be the loadstar of the Vaisnava

movement in South India, particularly during the period of Ramanuja and
immediately after, it is necessary, here, to trace briefly the Vaisnava
apostolic succession in Srirangam from the point where it was left earlier,
i.e. Ramanuja’s work in connection with the Srirangam temple. In the post-
Ramanuja period Srirangam gradually lost its preeminent position owing to the
split that grew step by step in the Vaisnava movement leading to the
mergence, in due course, of the Tenkalai and Vadakalai sects of Vaisnavism.
Srirangam, as a result, became the headquarters of the former and
Kanchipuram that of the latter. Thus the period from Ramanuja to
Vedantadesika, roughly covered by two centuries (1150-1350) was a critical
period in the history of South Indian Vaisnavism, when the seeds of discord
were sown resulting in the split, which became quite patent in the 15th and
16th centuries. For the same reason a study of this period is beset with
serious difficulties. For the first time, e.g. A uniform development is
followed by disunity and partisanship and the consequent uncertainty of
succession and dates. It is not possible for a modern historian either to
uphold entirely or criticise downright either of the Vadakalai or Tenkalai
versions of the Vaisnava apostolic succession. In the absence of any
material, epigraphical or otherwise, in the shape of confirmatory evidence,
the historian has to depend entirely on the two sets of Guru paramparais.
To question even a minor detail of either or to point out inconsistencies and
improbabilities in them may be to invite violent criticism based on sectarian
rancour and rouse fruitless controversy. It is not proposed, here, to enter
into such a controversy, and the only object is to sketch briefly the well-
marked tendencies and stages of development of Vaisnavism in Srirangam,
which are also relevant to the history of the temple. So far as the
administrative organisation of the temple was concerned Ramanuja’s system
(Udayavar tirtam) was sought to be continued and was not interfered with.
The progress was more spiritual and literary than secular.
The progress was more spiritual and literary than secular.

The period under consideration was one of “growing party-spirit and

not of actual party split”. That was the dominant characteristic of this
essentially transitional period. It arose, briefly, in the following manner.
Even in the last days of Ramanuja two distinct modes of expounding the
Vaisnava darsana or system were recognised. They were called the
pravacanas, viz., the Sribhasya pravacana and the Dravidamnaya pravacana.
The former consisted of the study of the Vedanta sutras with the help of
Ramanuja’s commentary on them in Sanskrit and the latter the study of the
4,000 sacred prabandas, in Tamil, of the Alvars. Ramanuja followed both
the methods in his expositions, but later on this gave rise to two separate
schools, two centres and two paramparas or succession lists.

According to the Tenkalai version Parasara Bhattar, the son of

Kurattalvan, (i.e., the Alvan of Kuram, whose name was also Parasara
Bhattar) succeeded Ramanuja on the pontifical seat at Srirangam. He is said
to have defeated, in a great religious disputation, a famous philosopher of
his time from Mysore called Vedanti. A certain Virasundarabrahma Rayar is
said to have reconstructed the wall of the Trivikraman enclosure (i.e., the
6th wall surrounding the Ranganatha shrine). This benefactor was arrogant
and he made the life of Bhattar in Srirangam intolerable. As a result
Bhattar left Srirangam for Tirukkottiyur and returned only after the death
of the Rayar. Probably this benefactor was a local chief in charge of the
region round Srirangam, in the days of the last Cola kings, analogous with
the ‘Koil-kuru-udaiyan Alagiyasolabrahma Rayan,’ figuring in the Srirangam
epigraph of Maravarman Sundara Pandya I.40 (53 of 1892; SII, IV 500.
The reference means ‘Alagiyasolabrahma Rayan, in charge of the (Srirangam)
temple and its environs.) Bhattar has left to his credit eight works, viz.,
Sahasranamabhasya, Astasloki, Gunaratnakosa, etc. All of these are in
Sanskrit. Vedanti, who was vanquished by Bhattar in debate, became the
fervent disciple of his victor, under the name of Nanjiyar, and after the
demise of the teacher the pupil succeeded to the gadi at Srirangam.41 (One
of the disciples of Bhattar was one Pillai Perumal Iyengar, also known as
Alagiyamanavaladasa. He was a great devotee of Sriranganatha and the
‘swing song’ in Tamil called Sriranganayakar usal is attributed to him.
According to a popular tradition Pillaipperumal Aiyangar was so much devoted
to Ranganatha that he refused to compose verses on Venkatesa of Tirupati.
The statement aranganaipadum vayal kuranganaippaden is attributed to him.
As a result he is said to have suffered from canker of the neck. He got
relief when he retracted. God Ranganatha is said to have informed him that
He and Venkatesa were not different. The portrait of Srinivasa Perumal
(Venkatesa) in the first prakara of the temple is said to commemmorate
(Venkatesa) in the first prakara of the temple is said to commemmorate
this, One difficulty in verifying this account is the existence of more than
one Pillaipperumal Aiyangar, alias Alagiya manavala-dasa, widely differing in
date.) His chief work was a commentary on the Tiruvaimoli called, from the
number of verses in contained, ‘the 9,000’. He had a precocious pupil by
name Nambur Varadaraja, whom he engaged to write a clean copy of his
work. When Varadaraja was crossing the Kaveri with the manuscript to his
own village, a swift current came on and swept off the bundle of candian
leaves from the hands of Varadaraja. The pupil reached home sad but
undismayed. Out of memory he wrote out a complete transcript of the
commentary, and when Bhattar saw it, he saw his own commentary not only
complete but much improved in many a context. In amazement he called
Varadaraja Nampillai (My son or our Son). Nampillai succeeded to the seat
of Nanjiyar, it would appear, in the last days of his teacher. Nampillai was
an ardent lover of the Tamil Prabandas and he was great force in the
formation of the Prabanda school at Srirangam. Engal Alvan and Varadacarya
of the Bhasya school were his contemporaries. On the withdrawal of the
latter to Kanchipuram from Srirangam Nampillai acted vigorously and
gathered around himself a band of veteran scholars, whose avowed object
was to win for the nascent Prabanda school stability and popular recognition
based on sectarian literature. The Arayirappadi Guruparamparai sketches a
conflict between Kandadai Tolappa, the grandson of Mudaliyandan, and hence
belonging to the orthodox and traditional school, and Nampillai. In the end,
however, they were reconciled. On this incident V.Rangachari comments, “the
story is significant enough. It tells us in a clear and unmistakable manner
how the Prabandic movement was looked upon as heterodox, how it began in a
small scale and how it gained strength in the time of Nampillai by bringing
round even such orthodox men as the Acharyic Kandadais.”42 (V.Rangachari:
The successors of Ramanuja, JBb RAS VXXI, pp. 120 ff.)

Under the inspiring leadership of Nampillai his chief two disciples, viz.,
Periya Accan Pillai and Pinbalagiya Perumal Jiyar, did two signal services to
the cause of the Prabanda school. Periya Accan Pillai is famous as the
veteran commentator, of the ‘Four thousand sacred prabandas’ or the
Nalayiradivya-prabandam, and his compilation called ‘the 24,000’ was based
on the Prabanda lectures of his teacher. Pinbalagiya Perumal Jiyar’s
contribution to the cause of the Tenkalai school was even more substantial.
He wrote out a Guruparamparai or a succession list of Acaryas, which
claimed for Nampillai’s teachings all the sanctity and veneration of a creed
professed by a line of Acaryas and thus gave a traditional or Apostolic
basis, without which no doctrine could command any hearing in the medieval
days, to what was in fact a protestant wing of Vaisnavism. He wrote in the
days, to what was in fact a protestant wing of Vaisnavism. He wrote in the
peculiar manipravala style (a mixture of Tamil and Sanskrit), gave prominence
to the Prabanda teaching and teachers and omitted all mention of the
orthodox and Sanskrit school and their activities in Kanchipuram. The Jiyar
gives the date Kali 4308 or A.D.1207 for the birth of Nampillai, who
appears to have lived upto A.D.1302, for he is credited with a life of 95

Nampillai was succeeded on the pontifical seat at Srirangam by Periya

Accan Pillai. As a fastidious thinker and writer the latter produced, over
and above his ‘24,000’, other commentaries on the four thousand sacred
Prabandas, and composed various treatises, viz., Upakara-ratnam,
Caramarahasyam, Manikkamalai, Navaratnamalai, etc., all in Manipravala.
Periya Accan Pillai was succeeded by another disciple of Nampillai by name
Vadakkuttiruvidi pillai.43 (The name means ‘the Pillai of the North Street’
[of Srirangam]) he had composed a voluminous commentary on the Tiruvaimoli,
called ‘the 36,000’ (well known as the Idu), containing the essence of the
lectures of his guru, but due to some reason it remained in private hands
until Manavala Mahamuni revised and published it to the outside world. The
son and successor of Vadakkuttiruvidi Pillai was Pillai Lokacarya, who was the
famous contemporary of Vedantadesika. His birth is placed in Kali 4366 or
A.D.1265. He had a brother named Alagiyamanavala Perumal Nainar. Both
the brothers were deeply learned in the Prabanda school and working hand in
hand they brought out a number of treatises mainly addressed to the
common folk with a view to explain to them the doctrine of prapatti and the
purity of their own creed based on that doctrine. Their two chief works
were Sri Vacana Bhusana and Acarya Hridaya. They are 16 other minor
works attributed to Pillai Lokacarya like the Tani-Tirumantram, Artha-
Pancakam, Tani-Caramam, etc., each explaining in lucid terms the meanings
of the texts of important mantras. These works called the Astadasa-
rahasyas or ‘Eighteen Secrets’ from the first and basic text book of the
Tenkalai school and as such Pillai Lokacarya is held in high veneration by the
Tenkalais of today, to whom he is next only to Manavala Mahamuni.

According to the Vadakalai version Tirukkurugaippiran Pillan was the

successor of Ramanuja on the spiritual throne at Srirangam. Like Ramanuja
he was exercising control over both the Bhasya and the Prabanda sides of
the Vaisnava darsana. He was followed by Engal Alvan, whose disciple and
successor was the famous Nadadur Ammal or Varadacarya. His nativity is
placed in Kali 4266 or A.D.1165. Thus he was the elder contemporary of
Nampillai on the Prabanda side. Varadacarya effected the epoch-making
transfer of his residence and scene of lectures to Kanchipuram from
transfer of his residence and scene of lectures to Kanchipuram from

Srirangam, thus giving rise to the geographical factor of the split among the
Vaisnavas. This might have been due to several causes. For one thing
Kanchipuram was the native home of Varadacarya. Probably the vociferous
activities of Nampillai and his redoutable disciples caused him considerable
embarassment and he might have withdrawn to Kanchipuram guided by his own
inclination and convenience. It is also said that his particular devotion to God
Varadaraja of Kanchipuram was the cause of the transfer of headquarters.
Whatever the cause the result was quite manifest. All scholars, who
believed in the orthodox and traditional school flocked under the banners of
Varadacarya at Kanchipuram, leaving Nampillai and his disciples at Srirangam
quite free to propagate their own protestant school of Vaisnavism. The
latter protested against the exclusive, too orthodox and unduly ritualistic
tendencies visible in the efforts of the traditional followers of Ramanuja, and
advocated a “more popular, less ritualistic, and more devotional creed”. They
condemned the rigidity of the caste system and advocated a democratic
basis for the Vaisnava religion. The result was obvious. In course of time
Kanchipuram came to be identified with the Sanskrit and traditional school of
the Bhasya, and Srirangam with the Tamil and popular school of the
Prabanda. For all practical purposes, say by 1247, when Nampillai was forty
and Varadacarya eighty-two, the parties had begun; but it has to be clearly
understood that the partisan spirit, which brought into being two
irreconcilable sects called the Vadakalai and the Tenkalai made its
appearance only in the 15th century and later.44 (For some of the wrong
explanations of the origin of this split by western scholars see
V.Rangachari’s article (op.cit.) p.109, n.1.)

The Bhasya lectures of Varadacarya at Kanchipuram attracted all

Vaisnava scholars in the neighbourhood including, according to the Vadakalai
Guruparamparai, Periya Accan Pillai and Vadakkuttiruvidi Pillai of Srirangam.
His lectures on the Sribhasya were put into writing by one of his disciples,
Sudarsanacarya, and this commentary came to be known as the
Srutaprakasika. Tatvasara represented Varadacarya’s philosophical
teachings. He is said to have met Venkatanatha, Vedantadesika of a later
day, as a boy of five. Hence his death has to be placed sometime after
1274-75, the date of Vedantadesika’s birth being 1269, according to all
accounts. Thus Varadacarya, like Ramanuja, is credited with a long life of
more than 110 years. After Varadacarya Atreya Ramanuja alias Appillar
succeeded to the pontifical seat at Kanchipuram while Sundarsanacarya
undertook to discharge the duties of the Acarya at Srirangam. Appillar
seems to have held the gadi only for a period of about 20 years for he is
said to have died after the completion of spiritual training and marriage of
said to have died after the completion of spiritual training and marriage of
Venkatanatha, who was his own nephew which event could be placed about
1295, the 26th year of Venkatanatha. The latter was the famous successor
of Apillar at Kanchipuram. Vedantadesika was born at Tuppil, a suburb of
Kanchipuram in Kali 4370 or A.D.1268. His father was Anantasuri Somayaji,
an orthodox Vaisnava of Kanci, While Totaramma, his mother was the sister
of Appillar. The child was supposed his mother was the sister of Appillar.
The child was supposed to be an incarnation of the divine bell of the shrine
of Srivenkatesa at Tirupati and an avatar of Ramanuja. As a young boy and
student of Appillar Vedantadesika gave a clear indication of the prodigy he
was going to be in the future. His remarkable memory and precocious genius
enabled him to master all the branches of the Vedanta and the Prabanda
lore before he was twenty. After the demise of Appillar he was called upon
to occupy the pontifical set at Kanchipuram. To obtain the grace of Garuda
he went to Tiruvanindrapuram, where he stayed for a few years. There, in
the presence of God Devanayaka, he delivered his first lectures and
composed his first panegyrics and a few years. There, in the presence of
God Devanayaka, he delivered his first lectures and composed his first
panegyrics and a few philosophical works. His panegyrics like Gopalavimsati,
Garuda Pancasat, Hyagrivastotra, etc., were in Sanskrit. He also composed
a few works in Tamil (manipravalam). Then he returned to Kanchipuram and
spent a few years devoted to religious discourses and writing. His two chief
works of this period were Varadarajapancasat, a famous poem on the God of
Kanci, and Nyasadasaka, which was an exposition of the doctrine of
Prapatti. A large number of Tamil works containing the gist of his teachings,
were also written during this period; some of them were the
Adaikkalappattu, the Tiruccinnamalai, the Arthapancakam, etc., and also the
well known Hastigiri Mahatmya in manipravalam, being the stalapurana of
Kanchipuram. A tour of northern India in the course of which he visited all
the sacred Vaisnava shrines north of Kanchipuram followed and the prominent
incident mentioned is his meeting with the sage, Vidyaranya on the banks of
the Tungabhadra.

Subsequent to his return to Kanchipuram a new set of circumstances

developed in Srirangam, which necessitated the presence of Vedantadesika
there. It appears that a set of advaitins under an able leader challenged
the Vaisnava pontiffs at Srirangam to meet them in debate and defend the
Visistadvaitta philosophy. The aged Sudarsana Bhatta felt himself unequal to
the task and the other leaders including Perio Accan Pillai and Pillai
Lokacarya, whose versatility on the Bhasya side, it is said, was not as
profound as on the Prabanda, did not rise to the occasion. The leaders
gathered together and resolved to invite Vedantadesika from Kanchipuram to
gathered together and resolved to invite Vedantadesika from Kanchipuram to
Srirangam and entrust him with the defence of Visistadvaita. A
communication was sent to Kanchipuram in the name of God Ranganatha,
inviting Vedantadesika to assume supreme control over the affairs at
Srirangam. In obedience to the divine command Desika migrated to Srirangam
and defeated the Advaitins in a prolonged debate. Satadhusani is the famous
compendium of the arguments that he used to behalf of Visistadvaita in the
course of this debate. Probably it was as a result of this achievement that
Vedantadesika won for himself the significant titles of ‘Vedantacarya’,
‘Kavitarkikasimha’, and ‘Brahmatantrasvatantra’. On the request of God
Ranganatha, it is said Desika was obliged to prolong his stay at Srirangam
and continue to exercise supreme control over the Vaisnava darsana.

Vedantadesika’s assumption of leadership at Srirangam came most

probably soon after Malik Kafur’s raid in 1310-11.45 (In connection with his
stay at Srirangam we are referred to only one Muslim invasion, and that was
the one headed by Ulugh Khan in 1323-24. It could not have been the
earlier invasion because, according to tradition, Vedantadesika was actively
engaged in Srirangam for some years with the peaceful task of religious
instruction and writing before he had to face the Muslim irruption; and if
this invasion were the one which occurred in 1310-11 it is not possible to
accommodate the period of his active stay at Srirangam between the year
of his assumption of the gadi in that shrine, which according to tradition took
place sometime after his 40th year (say 1311 or 1312), and the invasion
(i.e., 1311). See also JBb RAS XXIV, pp.289-90.) His period of stay at
Srirangam formed the most glorious chapter in his life. He carried on, at the
same time, with considerable endurance and persistence the prodigious task
of delivering religious lecturers and writing out commentaries as well as
original works. A few of his first works during this period were the
Tatvatika (a gloss on the Sribhasya), the Tatparyacandrika (a commentary
on the Gitabhasya), the Nyayasiddhanjana (a text book of Visistadvaita
logics), and the Tatvamuktakalapa (a study of the nature of the universe in
the light of Visistadvaita philosophy) together with a gloss on it called the
Sarvarthasiddhi. He wrote a large number of minor works explaining the
ideals of Srivaisnavism and the daily routine of an orthodox Srivaisnava and
expounding the meaning of the mantras. Some of them were the Saccaritra-
raksa; the Rahasya raksa, the Pancaratra-raksa, the latvapadavi, the
Rahasyapadavi, and the like, some of which were in manipravalam.

At this point the Guruparamparai gives a few interesting details about

Vedantadesika’s controversies with non-vaisnavas. It is said that a great
dispute arose at Vijayanagar between Vidyaranya and Aksobhyamuni,
dispute arose at Vijayanagar between Vidyaranya and Aksobhyamuni,

representatives respectively of Advaita and Dvaita philosophies. Unable to

arrive at a decision the arbiters made arrangements through the king to
refer the dispute to Vedantadesika, who decided in favour of Aksobhya.
Vidyaranya was enraged at this and wrote back to Desika criticising the
superfluity of a single letter ca in this work Satadhusani (of course not being
able to point out any genuine mistake). Vedantadesika was not dismayed and
he wrote a pamphlet called Cakarasamarthana, defending the retention of
that letter in his work. The contemporaneity of Vedantadesika, Vidyaranya
and Aksobhayamuni need not be doubted, but it is certain that
Vedantadesika’s arbitration could not have happened during the period of his
stay at Srirangam. i.e., before the Muslim invasion of his stay at
Srirangam. i.e., before the Muslim invasion of 1323, for the controversy
between Vidyaranya and Aksobyamuni, said to have taken place in the court
of Vijayanagar and in the royal presence, must be dated sometime after
1336, the date of foundation of Vijayanagar. It is known that Aksobhya
himself occupied the Madhava pontifical seat only between the years 1350
and 1367; and hence it is definite that the controversy and arbitration
referred to by the Vaibhava-prakasika have to be accommodated between
these two dates. It is also known that at this period Srirangam was
occupied by the Muslims and that Vedantadesika was living at an exile in
Satyamangalam. It may be held probable that he wrote out the famous
couplet passing judgement in favour of Aksobhya46 (‘Asina tatvamasina
parajiva prabhodina Vidyaranya maharanyam Aksobhyamuni raccinath’) either
from Satyamangalam or Vijayanagar, to which place he might have proceeded
at royal invitation.

Another interesting detail mentioned in the Guruparamparai is the

controversy that Vedantadesika had with an Advaitin by name Krisnamisra.
Unable to face Desika in a philosophic debate Krisnamisra offered to the
Vaisnava leader his Advaitic drama entitled Prabodacandrodaya and
challenged whether he could produce anything like it. Immediately Desika
composed in a single night, we are told, his well known Visistadvaitic drama
Sankalpasuryodaya. In the same way a certain Dindimakavi is said to have
challenged Desika with his work Ramabhyudaya when Desika composed in
reply two poems the Yadavabhyudaya and the Hamsasandesa, and thus put
Dindimakavi to shame. The story of the meeting with Krisnamisra, who
belonged to the 12th century, only means that Desika studied the former’s
Prabodacandrodaya and in reply to it wrote the Sankalpasuryodaya. As
regards his meeting with Dindimakavi, it has to be said that no Dindimakavi,
who was the contemporary of Vedantadesika and author of a work called
Ramabhyudaya is known to history. This mixture of fact and legend may
Ramabhyudaya is known to history. This mixture of fact and legend may
perhaps be taken to signify the uncompromising nature of the mind of
Vedantadesika, who evidently gave no rest to himself or peace to his
philosophical opponents.

It was not in the nature of things that the party of Pillai Lokacarya
and his brother Alagiyamanavala Perumal Nainar should have looked upon the
rising popularity of Vedantadesika with equanimity. Many incidents of petty
conflict and heart-burning are related in the Guruparamparai. The upshot of
the growing discontent on the part of the Tenkalai party at Srirangam was a
challenge thrown at Vedantadesika by Alagiyamanavala Perumal Nainar; the
latter proclaimed that Desika could retain his title Kavitarkikasimha only if
he undertook to compose, in a competition with himself a 1000 verses on the
Lord in the course of a single night. Vedantadesika joined the competition
and easily completed, we are told, a 1000 verses on the sandals of God, well
known as the Paduka-sahasram before it was dawn, while his rival could
finish only 300 verses on the feet of God. Above all Vedantadesika’s position
in Srirangam could not be weakened because he was as strong on the
Prabanda side as on the Bhasya. He is credited with a monumental
commentary on the Divyaprabandas called the ‘74000’, which, if it had been
actually written, is lost irretrievably to the scholars of the present day.
The collection of his beautiful Tamil verses on the Prabandas, called the
Desikaprabandam and many short treatises on the Mantra, the Dvaya, the
caramasloka and the Gita, however are a standing testimony to his
proficiency on the Prabanda side of the Vaisnava lore.

From the above account it is clear that the Srirangam temple had
developed, on the eve of the Muslim invasion (of 1323), into a great centre
of peaceful and progressive religious and literary activity and supplied
inspiration to some of the leading lights among the Vaisnavas of the age to
compose works of intense religious fervour and devotion. The Muslims under
Ulugh Khan descended upon Srirangam like a whilwind in 1323, massacred a
helpless ‘army’ of 12,000 ascetics that were guarding the shrine and
occupied the temple, which at once ceased to be a place of worship and
became instead a scene of intense desolation and gloom. The party of Pillai
Lokacarya, who it may be supposed had greater control over the
administration of the temple took immediate charge of the images of the God
and the Goddess and fled in a southern direction for safety. Vedantadesika
himself fled to Satyamangalam on the Kaveri (sometimes identified with a
place called Satyagalam, near Kollegal), with the single manuscript of the
Srutaprakasika of the aged Sudarsanacarya of the Kuram family and his two
little sons, Vedacarya Bhatta and Parasara Bhatta.47 (From Satyamangalam
little sons, Vedacarya Bhatta and Parasara Bhatta.47 (From Satyamangalam

Vedantadesika went to Tirunarayanapuram. Here he is said to have composed

a work called Abhithistavam praying for the restoration of the Srirangam
temple and his return to the shrine. (Vedantadesika-Vaibhavam, Tamil, by
P.B.Annagaracharyar, Kanchipuram, 1962-p.17.)

The Telugu chiefs and the Srivaisnava Acaryas of Srirangam

That certain Telugu chiefs were the disciples of Vaisnava Acaryas of

Srirangam about the first half of the 14th century is attested by tradition
as well as inscriptions. The Guruparamparai, while dealing with the stay of
Vedantadesika in Srirangam just before the Muslim invasion of 1323, says
that Sarvajna Singappa, a chieftain of the north sent messengers to
Srirangam to fetch Vedantadesika to his capital with a view to seek spiritual
guidance at the feet of the Acarya. Vedantadesika, who was himself unable
to proceed to the north, had the magnanimity to compose for the sake of
the royal suppliant a few works explaining the gist of his teachings and send
them along with the messengers to the chieftain. The works under reference
are said to be the Subhasitanivi, with its commentary, the Ratnapetika, the
Tatvasandesa, the Rahasyasandesa and its commentary the Rahasyasandesa-
vivarana.48 (JBb RAS XXIV, p.300.)

The Telugu chieftain, who became a disciple of Vedantadesika, has

variously been identified. The Vaibhavaprakasika, says that he was the son
of Madhava Nayaka and the ruler of Ekasilanagari-Rajamahendrapattana.
This capital has been identified by some with Vontimitta in the Cuddapah
district, said to have formed part of the Venkatagiri zamindari, whose chief
was Sarvagna Singa. It is also held that he was the tenth in descent from
Cevi Reddi alias Betala Naidu, the founder.49 (Ibid., foot note.) But these
surmises can be given up in favour of his identification with Singaya, the
younger brother of Mummadi Nayaka, the chief of Korukonda, who it is
known from inscriptions was the disciple of Parasara Bhatta VII of
Srirangam. The Srirangam plates of Mummadi Nayaka dated S.1280
(A.D.1358) record that Mummadi, the king of the Telinga country, granted
to Bhatta Parasara, the seventh, the village of Kottallaparru, which the
donce’s mother regranted to God Sriranganatha of Srirangam.50 (EI, XIV,
pp.83 ff.) The inscription states that this chief belonged to the family of
Mancikonda and that he ruled over the Telugu country bounded on the north
by Kanya-kubja, on the south by the Pandya country, on the east by Kalinga
and on the west by Maharastra, and with its capital at Korukonda. His
conquests included the Panara, the Kona, the Kuravataka, the Chengara and
other countries lying on either side of the Godavari. He is said to have
other countries lying on either side of the Godavari. He is said to have

married the niece of Kapaya Nayaka, the Telugu chief, who played a leading
role in freeing Warangal and the neighbouring tracts from the Muslim yoke as
early as 1330.51 (N.Venkataramanayya, Early Muslim Expansion in South
India, pp.169-72.) Mummadi became a disciple of Parasara Bhatta VII
(i.e., the seventh in descent from Parasara Bhatta I or Kurattalvan, the
well known disciple of Ramanuja) when the latter had gone over to the
Telingadesa. The village was granted to him as Gurudaksina. Kurattalvan alias
Srivatsacihna Misra had two sons Parasara Bhatta and Rama Misra. Rama
Misra’s son was Vagvijaya Bhatta alias Naduviltiruvidi Pillai Bhattar. His son
was Vedavyasa alias Sudarsana Bhatta, the author of the Srutaprakasika.
He had two sons Vedacarya Bhatta and Parasara Bhatta, the later of whom
figures as the donee of this epigraph. Mummadi assumed the title
Srirangavardhana probably in commenmoration of his having become the pupil
of Parasara Bhatta of Srirangam. An inscription dated in A.D.1353 from
Korukonda refers, in confirmation of the Srirangam copper plates, to
Mummadi and Parasara Bhatta as pupil and teacher.52 (EI XIV, p.84; ARE
1913, Pt.II, para 71.)

Mummadi Nayaka was the great grandson of Kesami Nayaka and he

had to brothers by name Singaya and Gannaya. The disciple of
Vedantadesika might very well have been the elder of the two brothers.
While Mummadi chose Parasara Bhatta VII as his guru Singaya might have
chose Parasara Bhatta VII as his guru Singaya might have chosen his elder
and more famous contemporary, viz., Vedantadesika even earlier, say about

The Institution of the Adina of Sriranganarayana Jiyar

One of the historically important adjuncts of the Srirangam temple is

the office of Sriranganarayana Jiyar, which was created by the Stalattar
of the temple sometime before the Muslim invasions The Koil-Olugu, the
Annan Tirumaligai Olugu and the Sriranganarayana Jiyar Guruparamparai
furnish details of the installation of this Adina. Kuranarayana Jiyar, said to
be a disciple of Kurattalvan, was the first occupant of the gadi of
Sriranganarayana Jiyar. The Guruparamparai says that he ascended the gadi
in the Pallavesvaran mutt in S.1048 or A.D.1126. He was a great saint and
a maha-mantrica (i.e. having considerable mystical power). As a resident of
Srirangam he is credited with many valuable services to the town, to the
temple and to the Perumal. He foiled the attempt of a wicked Sannyasi of
Seringapatam to remove the Ranganatha image from Srirangam to his own
town by means of his mantric powers, put an end to the hostile activities of
town by means of his mantric powers, put an end to the hostile activities of

the Saivas of Jambukesvaram, rescued the images of the Perumal and the
Nacciyar from being swept away by a swift current in the Kaveri in the
course of a float festival in the month of Adi, constructed firm embankments
of the Kaveri and stopped the havoc caused to parts of Srirangam by
occasional floods in the river, dug out a huge tank to the west of the temple
for conducting the float festival, repaired various parts of the temple and
installed in the temple various deities like Vasanta Gopala Hayagriva,
Vedavyasa, Gnanappiran, Parthasarathy, Vittalesvara and others.53
(KO.pp.114-125) These services naturally endeared the Jiyar to the
inhabitants of Srirangam, who were eager to associate him with the
responsible headship of the temple. According to the arrangements,
established by Udayavar, however, the descendents of Mudaliyandan were
exercising control over the administration of the temple. But Periya
Varadacaryar alias Periya Ayi, the great grandson of Mudaliyandan, who was
then exercising the Srikaryam, understood the popular wish and willingly took
Kuranarayana Jiyar into the service of the temple and assigned to him
certain duties and also the Pallavarayan mutt. In course of time the Jiyar,
known as Sriranganarayana Jiyar, acquired considerable power and prestige
in the temple organisation as well as control over the religious code. His was
an office elected by the temple parijanas and not a hereditary one.54 (It is
not possible to reconcile the divers accounts of the local chronicles regarding
the foundation of the gadi of Sriranganarayana Jiyar. Since the Koil-Olugu
and the Annan Tirumaligai Olugu make him the contemporary of Periya Ayi,
the great grandson of Mudaliyandan and grand father of Srirangarajanathan
Vaduladesika, the manager of the temple during the invasion of 1323, he
may be assigned to the 13th century.


Copyright © 2005-2007, All rights reserved.

Events of Today

Chapter 7


I The Restoration of the Temple

M Putting together the literary and epigraphic evidences it can be said

E that Ma’bar was conquered by the Vijayanagar princes in the course of
U three expeditions in 1351-52, 1360-61 and 1371.1
(Dr.N.Venkataramanayya, Jmu. XI, 57, 63.) A few names like Saluva
Mangu, Saluva Gunda and Gopana figure in these expeditions. These were
generals who served under Kumara Kampana. It is not possible to assess with
exactitude the success that attended on each one of these three, but it is
definite that the final blow against the Muslims in the south was struck only
in 1371, in which year the Srirangam temple was freed from the Muslim
yoke. In fact works like the Jaimini Bharatam, Saluvabhyudayam and
Ramabhyudayam that throw considerable light on the early Vijayanagar
conquests make prominent mention of the restoration and reconsecration of
the Srirangam temple. Above all there is the inscription of Gopanarya in the
Srirangam temple, which assigns the event to 1371.2 (EI.VI. pp.322 ff
‘Hail! Prosperity! In the Saka year (expressed by the chronogram)
Bandhupriya i.e., S.1293); (Verse 1) Having brought (The God) from the
Anjanadri (mountain), the splendour of whose darkish peaks gives delight to
the world, having worshipped (him) at Chenchi for sometime, then having slain
the Tulushkas, whose bows were raised, - Gopanarya, the mirror of fame,
placing Ranganatha together with both Lakshmi and the Earth in His own
town (Srirangam) again duly performed excellent worship.

(Verse 2) Having carried Rangaraja, the Lord of the World, from the slope
of the Vrishabagiri (mountain) to his capital (Chenchi), having slain by his
army the proud Tulushka soldiers having made the site of Sriranga united
with the golden age (Krita yuga), and having placed there this (God) together
with Lakshmi and the earth, - the Brahmana Gopana duly performs like the
lotus-born (Brahma) the worship which has to be practiced”. The Koil-Olugu
quotes this inscription and says that Gopana, who was one of the officers of
Harihararaya (Harihara II), with his residence at Cenci or Gingee (South
Arcot district), once came to Tirupati, where the images of the God and the
Goddess of Srirangam had been kept for safety. This general, who was a
Brahmana, took the images to Singapuram near Gingee, where he housed
them in the local shrine for sometime. Narasimhadeva alias Singappiran, who
was playing the part of the agent of the Muslims at Srirangam, watched the
development carefully and opened secret negotiations with Gopana at
Singapuram. Thus apprised of the strength of the Muslim garrison at
Kannanur Gopana came with a large force and inflicted severe defeat on the
Muslims (i.e. the army of Alauddin Sikander Shah, the last Sultan of
Madurai).3 (According to the Prapannamritam Sriranganatha appeared to
Gopana in a dream and exhorted him to strike against the Muslims and
restore Him to Srirangam.) Perhaps a great battle, of which we have no
account, was fought at Kannanur and this Muslim stronghold of Ma’bar was
wrested once for all from the hands of the enemy. Gopana brought the
images from Singapuram and reinstalled them in Srirangam on the 17th of
Vaikasi in the year Paridap, S.1293. This corresponds with Virodhakrit and
not Paridapi and 17th of Vaikasi S.1293 is equivalent to 13th of May 1371.
On this day, says the inscription, “Gopanarya, the mirror of fame, placing
Ranganatha together with Laksmi and the Earth (Sri and Bhu in His own town
(Srirangam) again duly performed excellent worship”. According to the
Prapannamritam the verses in the inscription were composed by
Vedantadesika, who returned to Srirangam from his exile and witnessed in
great delight the reconsecration of the images. The Guruparamparai says
that Vedantadesika breathed his last in Kali 4470 or A.D.1368. Laying too
much emphasis on the traditional dates (which credit Desika with a life of
100 years, i.e., from Kali 4370 to Kali 4470) some scholars have come
forward to question the date of this inscription, may the validity of the
epigraph itself, which is said to be unusual in character; Vedantadesika, who
died in 1368, we are told, could not have witnessed the reconsecration and
composed the verses in praise of Gopana in 1371. Hence the restoration of
the temple must have taken place sometime before 1369.4 (JBbRAS.XXIV.
p.308 n.2) Clearly it is too much to question the inscription and its date on
the basis of tradition. Either Vedantadesika did not compose the verses or
he died sometime after 1371. The latter is the more probable alternative.
Subsequent to the restoration Vedantadesika settled, according to tradition,
once again in Srirangam and spent a few years in peaceful religious activity
before his death, during which period he wrote his famous
Rahasyatrayasara, elaborately explaining the doctrine of self-surrender. For
the sake of convenience we may assume that Vedantadesika died in 1380;
and sticking to tradition, which credits him with a hundred years, his life
may be said to have extended from 1280 to 1380.

The Jaimini Bharatamu, the Saluvabhyudayam and the Ramabhyudayam

mention Saluva Mangu or Mangi in connection with the restoration of the
Srirangam temple.5 (The first is a Telugu work by Pillalamarri
Pinavirabhadra, while the second and the third are Sankskrit works,
respectively by Rajanatha Dindima and Saluva Narasimha.) Saluva Mangu was
the chief among the ancestors of Saluva Narasimha, the first king of the
Saluva or the second dynasty of Vijayanagar. According to the first work
Mangu is said to have defeated and killed the Sultan of Madurai in battle
and to have established the God of Srirangam in His temple. On the latter
occasion he is said to have presented to the God 60,000 madas of Gold.6
(Dr.S.K.Aiyangar, Sources p.29.) According to the other two works Saluva
Mangu is said to have made a gift to the Srirangam temple of 1,000
salagramas and eight villages to represent the eight syllables of the
astaksara and to have earned the name of the “establisher of Sriranga.”7
(Ibid., pp.30-31, 32.) The inscription mentions only Gopana while the works
mentioned above refer to Mangu. As a matter of fact both were generals
under Kampana, the son of Bukka.8 (Ibid. p.29 and p.35.) The literary
works make exclusive references to Saluva Mangu because they are all
dedicated to the members of the Saluva dynasty. The Koil-Olugu mentions
Gopana Udayar and Gundu Saluva Aiyar (Saluva Gunda) as the munificent
benefactors of the temple on the occasion of its restoration. Gopana udayar
is said to have donated to the temple, through Uttamanambi, 52 villages at
an expense of 17,000 gold pieces. Gundu Saluva Aiyar, who came with him
erected a flag-staff of bell-metal in the Aniyarangan court-yard in the
place of the old gold flagstaff that had been established by Jatavarman
Sundara Pandya I and which was destroyed by the Muslims.9 (KO.p.135-
36.) There were several Gundas in the Saluva family and it is highly probable
that the Gundu Saluva Aiyar of the Olugu was Gunda, the elder brother of
Saluva Mangu.10 (Sources, p.32.) It is quite likely that Gopana, Saluva
Mangu and his brother Saluva Gunda were present at the ceremonies of
reconsecration of the temple and made several gifts. The restoration of the
Srirangam temple see the seal, as it were, upon the liberation of the Tamil
country from the Muslim yoke. In 1372-73 Kampana II occupied Kannanur
and an inscription of his dated 1372 from the Poysalesvara temple says that
the shrine was demolished upto the adharasilai (adhistana or base stone) and
converted into a mosque by the Muslims during the period of their occupation
and that after Kampana’s conquest this temple was reopened for worship.11
(162 of 1936-37; pt.II, para 51.) An inscription in the Srirangam temple
dated 1373 registers gift of a Kalmatha to Pradhani Vitthappar, son of
Apparaju of the Bharadwaja gotra, for having recovered certain lands and
rendered other help to the temple.12 (47 of 1938-39.) Another inscription,
says that this Vithappa formed a pasture land for the temple near the Yoga
Narasimha Shrine.13 (48 of 1938-39.)

The Re-organisation of the Temple

The complete reduction of the Muslim power at the hands of the

generals of Kampana II left the Srirangam temple free but much more
remained to be done before the temple could once more function as a self-
supporting institution. Worship had practically ceased; there was a dispersal
of the literatures and officers of the temple; many structures had suffered
wanton destruction; gold plates covering pillars, walls and vimanas had been
peeled off and golden idols carried away; the temple treasury and granaries
had been emptied and the jewels and valuable plundered; and more than all
the temple was reduced to a state of wretchedness and poverty, all the
devadana lands having been overrun. The two inscriptions referred to above
just provide an indication of the problem of recovering the temple lands. The
first task that had to be faced by the stalattar of the temple was the
collection of funds in cash and kind from various benefactors. The temple, in
short, had to be given a new life. The officers of the temple who rose to
the occasion and managed its affairs with credit were the Uttamanambis of
Srirangam, who as wardens of the temple, built up close connections with the
court of Vijayanagar.

The constitution of a new committee to appoint persons to look after

the property of the temple is mentioned in an inscription on the south wall of
the second prakara. Engraved in Tamil characters of the 14th century it
may be assigned to this period. Without mentioning any names it purports to
be an order issued by God Ranganatha directing a council of 23 members -
10 selected out of the 10 kottus or groups of temple servants, 4 from the
sanyasins and the desantris, 5 representing the 18 mandalas and 4
representing the Cera, Cola, and Pandya kings and the Ksatriyas of the
north - to appoint Sanyasins versed in Vaisnava lore and with the interests
of the temple at heart, to look after the properties of the temple situated
in several places, with provision made for their maintenance. Armed
Velaikaras were placed at their disposal to help them in the discharge of
their duties.14 (51 of 1938-39; pt.II para 71. ‘Sanyasis well versed in
Vaisna lore’ refers to Vaisnava Acaryas, who, it was expected, would
command respect and act disinterestedly ‘Cera, Cola, Pandya kings and
Ksatriyas of the north’ refers to the rulers of the period, in general.

Harihararaya II (1377-1404) and Periya Krisnarayar Uttamanambi (1383-

The Uttamanambis are one of the ancient and important families of
Srirangam.15 (This is commemorated by the saying ur padi Uttamanambi padi
meaning ‘the town is 50% and the Uttamanambis 50%’.) These are
Brahmanas of the purvasikha sect and their name has for long been
associated with the administration of the Srirangam temple. In their
genealogy, the Uttamanambivamsa-prabhavam, they claim descent from
Periyalvar, who migrated from Srivilliputtur to Srirangam, and trace a
continuous succession. Much of the earlier part of this genealogy cannot be
verified, but from the point of the Muslim invasions and the Vijayanagar
restoration that followed, the chronicle becomes some-what dependable in
details, which find corroboration in the Guruparamparai and the Koil-Olugu as
well as in inscriptions. Periya Krisnarayar Uttamanambi (No.80 in the
Vamsaprabhavam) is said to have invited Kampana II, the son of Bukka I, to
pay a visit to the temple. Kampana, who was very much pleased with the
sight of the God, made a donation of 16,000 gold pieces for acquiring
Devadana lands, while his minister (pradhani) made another donation of 1,000
gold pieces for the same purpose. Both the gifts were handed over to Periya
Krisnarayar Uttamanambi who purchased, with this amount, 62 villages for
the temple. Here perhaps we get more details of the account, referred to
above, of the Koil-Olugu about Gopanarya’s donation to the temple of 52
villages at a cost of 17,000 gold pieces. The Vamsaprabhavam says further
that this Uttamanambi collected another sum of 5,000 gold pieces from
Viruppana Udayar (younger brother of Harihara II and third son of Bukka I)
and purchased with it 13 more villages for the temple. All this was done in
one year, i.e., in 1371, the year of the restoration; for in 1372, it would
appear, Periya Krisnarayar Uttamanambi went on a visit to the court of
Vijayanagar. The Koil-Olugu, under the date S.1294 (A.D.1372) gives an
interesting account of this visit.16 (KO. pp.136-38.) Soon after the
restoration there took place the characteristic dispute over the preferential
tirtha honours between the Kandadais, who were the descendents of
Mudaliyandan, and the occupant of the newly created office of
Sriranganarayana Jiyar. The Durgadipati or the agent of the Raya of
Vijayanagar (i.e. Saluva Gunda) is said to have encouraged the Jiyar to the
detriment of the hereditary rights of the Kandadaiyar. The latter sought
the interference of Gopana at Cenji but it was all in vain. Kandadaiyar then
requested the Uttamanambi to go to Vijayanagar and lay his case before the
Raya. At the same time the cultivators of the temple lands were also
considerably worried over the question of submitting accounts to the Raya
and obtaining royal recognition of their hereditary rights. Uttamanambi
agreed to proceed to Vijayanagar on both these counts, i.e., on behalf of
the Kandadaiyar as well as the cultivators. No details of his interview with
the Raya are furnished. The Annan Tirumaligai Olugu simply says that he
obtained for Kandadai Tolappa supreme control over the temple. When he
went to Vijayanagar again, after a few years, he was commanded by
Viruppana Udayar to erect a tulapurusamantapa in the temple to the east of
the flagstaff. After this mantapa was built the latter came to Srirangam
and performed the rulapurusa ceremony. Harihararaya too is said to have
performed such a ceremony. These luxurious donations yielded a large amount
of gold and with its help the Sriranga vimana was once again restored to its
pristine dignity. It was covered with gold plates and adorned with nine gold
kalasas. According to an inscription Krisnarayakavi (same as Krishnaraya
Uttamanambi) gave to God Ranganatha gold ornaments, utensils, etc., and
made endowments for special festivals. He also provided for the God
vehicles, various mantapas, gopuras and large gardens. He constructed broad
beautiful streets. He was protecting Rangaraja-nagari just as the city of
Madhura by the descendant of Yadu.17 (South Indian Temple Inscription
(Madras Government Oriental series), Vol.III, pt.II, Inscription No.1269,
p.No.1300.) This member of the Uttamanambi family, thus, did much to
restore the glory of the temple and paved the way for further work by his
more famous son. Incidentally it is to be noted that this inscription refers to
him as a kavi. Tirumaladhisa, the author of the Laksmikavya, was his great

There are several inscriptions of Viruppana Udayar (or Virupaksa II),

the second son of Harihara II, in the Srirangam temple ranging between the
dates 1383 and 1396.18 (88 of 1937-38, Pt.II, para 60; 72, 76, 77, 87,
88, 153 and 154 of 1938-39; Pt.II, para 42 and 187 of 1951-52.
‘Viruppana’ or ‘Virupanna’ appears to be a variant of the Sanskrit form of
Virupaksa, who was appointed viceroy of the Tamil country by Harihara II.
(Virupanna or Virupaksa I, a son of Bukka I, was a governor Penukonda
during his father’s reign 1356-77). See table, Historical Inscriptions of
South India, R.Sewell and S.K.Aiyangar, p.400) A record dated in the
former year registers a gift of cows for lighting a ghee lamp by
Somanathadeva, son of Vittappa, a pradhani of the prince. An undated
inscription in Sanskrit carved on the Capitals of two pillars in the
mukhamantapa of the Cakrattalvar shrine states that he constructed the
vimana, gopura and mantapa for god Cakrin and that he made a further gift
of the village Paccil. Another inscription dated 1385 registers a gift of cows
for the supply of milk to the Ranganatha temple by Devaraja, son of
Sangamamatya or Sangamarasa, another pradhani of the prince, who was
appointed the governor of the Tamil country. According to another record
the same donor provided for a lamp too. Yet another officer of the prince
was Mantri Muddarasa of the Kasyapa gotra, who is said to have made a
gift of land for a flower garden and in addition a gift of 20 cows for a
perpetual lamp. An inscription dated 1390 registers the gift of 30 cows and
a perpetual lamp by Annappa Udaiyar Chaundappa, son of Vithappa of Vatsa
gotra. The latest record in this series, dated 1396 states that Annappar
Chaundappa, son of Vittapangal of the Srivatsa gotra of Jaula in
Veluvaladesa (Belvola) (same as the donor in the above record) made for the
god a tiruvasigai (aureola), repaired the 1,000 pillared mantapa and
consecrated Vitthala therein, gilded the vimana of the central shrine
(Koyilalvar) and provided for offerings and worship to the God. These
records make it clear that Virupaksa took an active interest in the
restoration of the Srirangam temple. The Koil-Olugu says that the
dhvajarohona ceremony of the Cittirai festival was conducted in the name of
Viruppana, who “enabled the people coming from all parts of the country to
visit the long missed Perumal and to obtain seva.”19 (KO. p.138.) The
association of Viruppana with the Cittirai festival has survived and the
festival is even today called the Viruppan tirunal. The Olugu also says that
he built the shrine of Sudarsana Perumal and installed an image of Narasimha
therein, but gives the date 1444 which must be wrong.20 (Ibid.; p.149.)

After Periya Krisnarayar Uttamanambi Vedacarya Bhatta, a son of

the Srutaprakasikacarya (i.e., Sudarsanacarya), is said to have
administered the temple from Isvara to Vikrama (A.D. 1397-1401). His
high handedness and mismanagement led to the interference of the Raya,
who sent one Timmaraja to remove Vedacarya Bhatta from office and install
Mainilaiyitta Uttamanambi in his stead. Vedacarya Bhatta is said to have
appropriated to himself the control over the shrine of Udayavar in the
Srirangam temple; this he managed to keep with himself by coming to an
understanding with Timmaraja and Uttamanambi in the year Vikari
(A.D.1419).21 (Ibid. pp.143-45.)

Inscriptions of Bukka II (1405-1406) and Devaraya I (1406-1422)

An inscription of Bukka II in the Srirangam temple dated 1405

registers a gift of some land, cows and a silver salver by Sivandelundan
Samantanar, who it is known, was the officer of Bukka II, in charge of the
Trichinopoly region. The gifts were for providing offerings to the God of
Srirangam. Another record mentions Devaraya I as king.22 (86 of 1937-38;
pt. II, para 61; 60 of 1938-39, pt.II, para 43.) It consists of three
Sanskrit verses. The first extols the king, playing a pun on the names of
the cyclic years. “Having become king in Parthiva and destroyed his enemies
in Vyaya Devaraya would become all conquering (Sarvajit) and all-supporting
(Sarvadhari)”. The second verse states that Uttamanambi got from
Devaraya a pearl umbrella, a big kahala, a pair of dipikas or lamp stands,
bhadrasana or throne and similar royal emblems as honours evidently on
behalf of the temple. The third verse states that in the cyclic year
Manmatha 1415 an image of Garuda was consecrated by Cakraraya, the
brother of Uttamanambi. The Koil-Olugu says that Cakraraya recast the
copper sannidhi Garuda, which had been destroyed during the Muslim
occupation and installed it in the Alagiyamanavalan tirumantapa.23
(KO.p.157.) Another record in the temple dated 1409 mentions
Mahamandalesvara Vira Bhupati Udayar (son of Bukka II and grandson of
Harihara II) as the donor. It states that as his gift of 80 pon for
conducting a 9 day festival to God Ranganatha in his own name, ending on the
day of his natal star punarpusam in the month of Tai, was found insufficient
he increased it by another gift of 55 pon and left the conduct of the
charity in charge of Uttamanambi.24 (59 of 1938-39.) This Uttamanambi
was Valiyadimai-nilaiyitta Uttamanambi, son of Periya Krisnarayar
Uttamanambi. An inscription dated 1410 registers gift of land, house-site
and a portion of the offered food of the temple to Ellayar, son of
Sangamadeva of Kasmiradesam and of the Gautama gotra as
Yainopavitakkani (i.e., for the supply of Yajnopavitas).25 (71 of 1938-39.)
The next record, a copper-plate grant, dated 1414 registers the grant of
the village Naruvuru (Nerur in Karur Taluk, Thiruchirapalli district) to
Uttamanambi, the sthanika of the Ranganatha temple by Harihararaya
Odeya (son of Virapratapa Devaraya I), who was the viceroy of a part of
the present day Coimbatore district with headquarters at Cevurakota (Sevur
in Palladam Taluk, Coimbatore district).26 (C.P.No.27 of 1935-6; EI. XVI,
pp.222-23.) This village was originally granted to one Appannagalu, but only
a few days later the donee seems to have handed over the management of
the donation to Uttamanambi, a person who was intimately connected with
the Srirangam temple and hence could manage the charity more
advantageously. It was stipulated in the grant that Uttamanambi, the
transferee, was to hold a subordinate position (ediridu) to Appannagalu, the
transferor, with reference to the grant. According to the deed of gift to
Uttamanambi the village of Naruvuru was to be christened Ranganathapura; a
daily service to God Ranganatha with the full round of offerings of foods,
waving camphor lights, sandal paste, flower garland, incense, etc., was to be
instituted, a flower-garden of the extent of 120 kulis of land was to be
cultivated and garlands supplied for the special service known as
Padinettampadi-servai; a cattra or choultry was to be constructed within
the premises of the Srirangam temple and twelve Brahmanas fed daily
therein with rice, dhal, ghee, four vegetable curries, butter milk, together
with betal-leaves and nuts; and eight Brahmanas in the village of Naruvuru
were to be given each four ma of wet land rent free. The Uttamanambi of
this record is undoubtedly the same as Valiyadimanilaiyitta Perumal
Uttamanambi, who was the warden of the Srirangam temple between the
years 1407 and 1450. An inscription dated 1420 registers gift of 4 velis of
land Melmuri-Mavadumangalam in Malainadu by Madhavadasa, pradhana-
Mallanam of Candragiri, to meet the expenses of offerings immediately after
the early morning service everyday to God Ranganatha. It also registers gift
of 30 cows for maintaining a perpetual lamp by the same person. The last in
the series is dated 1422. The donor is Vijaya-Bhupatiraya-Maharaya
(second son of Devaraya I and father of Devaraya II, whoseems to have
reigned for a few months). The epigraph registers his gift of the village
Kumarakkudi, in Malai-nadu, a sub-division of Rajaraja valanadu, on the
northern bank (of the Kaveri) as a dandikai-jivita to Uttamanambi.27 (53 of

Inscriptions of Devaraya II 1422-1446: Uttamanambi and Cakraraya: The

Great age of Re-organisation and Prosperity.

Several inscriptions of Devaraya II in the Srirangam temple testify to

its growing prosperity under royal patronage. The earliest of these, a
copper-plate grant, dated 1427 registers the grant by Devaraya II of the
villages, Pandamangalam, Tirunalur and Seranaivenraperumanallur in the
Rajaghambiravalanadu (i.e., south of the Kaveri) and Sunepuhanalur in the
Rarajavalanadu (i.e., north of the Kaveri), made to the temple of
Ranganatha on the Utthanadvadasi tithi in the bright half of the month of
Karthikai in the year Plavanga.28 (EI XVII, pp.110 ff.) This grant was an
auxiliary to the Go-sahasra mahadana or ‘gift of a 1,000 cows’. Out of the
income from these villages, viz., 1,823 kulagadyanas, 12 perpetual lamps
were to be burnt, flower-garlands supplied and one festival celebrated. This
donation, it may be supposed, was handed over to the charge of
Uttamanambi, though the name is not mentioned in the grant. An inscription
in the temple dated 1429 registers gift of a village Hasti Colendramangalam
disciple of Ramacandra Saraswati for the offering to Sriranganatha of food
in six gold vessels, offering garlands, etc.29 (55 of 1938-39; also
S.I.Temple Inscriptions II, pp.734-35.)

About half-a-dozen inscriptions of Devaraya II at Srirangam mention

Uttamanambi and his brother Cakraraya.30 (ARE 1937-38; pt.II, para 63
and ARE 1938-39; pt.II, para 45.) A set of his copper plates dated 1434
register the grant by the king of the villages of Naccikkuricci,
Tiruvaranganallur and Ramanarayananallur in the Rajaghambira-valanadu, and
Kumarakkudi and Rajanarayananallur to Valiyadimai-nilaiyitta Perumal
Uttamanambi, son of Uttamanambi, the Sthanapathi of the Srirangam
temple. With the help of the income from the villages Uttamanambi was to
conduct the daily worship of the God.31 (EI.XVIII, pp.138 ff.) A stone
inscription of this king records the gift of the villages of Sundekkayi,
Kovattakkudi, Todeyur and Karugule to Uttamanambi and his brother
Cakraraya, for a service instituted in his own name.32 (121 of 1937-38.)
Another registers a royal order issued to Chaudappa granting two villages to
Uttamanambi for conducting worship.33 (119 of 1937-38.) Another
inscription states that Uttamanambi was the recipient of the presents of a
pearl-umbrella, a pair of kahalas (blow-pies) and of dipikas, a golden vessel
and an ivory shielf from the king Praudha-Devaraya.34 (84 of 1937-38) It
was mentioned above that he had received similar gifts from Devaraya I as
well. Cakraraya is said to have constructed a portion of the Perumaltolan-
tirumantapa in the west verandah of the third prakara of the temple,
cleared the jungle to the east of the temple and established a colony in the
precincts of the shrine of Alagiyasinga (kattalagiyasingar), built a mantapa in
front of the shrine of Annamurti, and installed an image of Hanuman in a
mantapa nearby, and the image of Laksmi in a porch which he erected near
the temple kitchen.35 (80 and 82 of 1937-38; pt.II, para 63.) He is also
credited with the installation of the Dasavatara images in a temple on the
southern bank of the Coleroon in Srirangam in 1438.36 (83 of 1937-38) An
undated record says that Cakraraya presented eight elephants to God
Ranganatha.37 (89 of 1937-38) Another undated record lists the several
gifts made and services rendered by Cakraraya to the temple, such as a
1000 kalanju for a gold dish, consecration of the image of Garudalvar, a
1000 kalanju of gold for the pedestal of the Goddess, a similar sum for a
gold lamp-stand, a golden pot worth a 1,000 kalanju of gold, a pearl
garment, a gold platter (vattil) and pedestal from again a 1,000 kalanju of
gold.38 (50 of 1937-38) The cyclic years quoted in this record, i.e. from
Krodhi to Saumya, when the gifts were made severally, have to be equated
with the period 1424-1429.

The Koil-Olugu and the Laksmikavyam speak of Uttamanambi or

Uttamaraya and Cakraraya, who did much to enrich the Srirangam temple
with the help of the Vijayanagar kings. Valivadimai-nilaiyitta (meaning ‘he
who established his title as the hereditary servant of God’, a rendering in
who established his title as the hereditary servant of God’, a rendering in
Tamil of the Sanskrit Vamsa-krama mula-bhritya, which occurs in the
Laksmikavya) Uttamanambi is identifical with Srirangacarya Uttamanambi of
the Vamsaprabhavam, the son of Periya Krisnarayar Uttamanambi.39 (No.81
in the list.) His other titles mentioned in the Koil-Olugu are Meinilaiyitta
(i.e. ‘he who established the truth, probably this has reference to his part
in the reorganisation of the temple with the help of Rayas) and Ellaikkarai-
nilaiyitt (i.e. ‘he who established the boundary’ - between Srirangam and
Jambukesvaram). According to the Laksmikavyam Uttamaraya (Uttamanambi)
possessed royal insignia and managed the affairs of the temple. This, it was
seen, is attested by inscriptions. From the Kavya it is also known that he
had two brothers Cakraraya and Timmaraya, the latter of whom renounced
the wordly life and became an ascetic. Tirumaladhisa, the author of the
Kavya, was the grandson of Uttamaraya.40 (EI XVIII, p.139.) Both the
Vamsaprabhavam and the Koil-Olugu say that this famous member of the
family of the Uttamanambis was the warden of the Srirangam temple for 44
years, between the cyclic years Sarvajit and Pramoduta, i.e., from 1407 to
1450. The inscriptions mentioning this Uttamanambi and his brother
Cakraraya range between these two dates. The Olugu says that in 1421
Ellaikkarai-nilaiyitta Uttamanambi went to Vijayanagar, please Devaraya II
(Pratapadeva Maharaya, who witnessed the ‘elephant-hunt’, gajavettai) by
playing with him and winning games of caturanga and obtained from him
various presents for himself, and the name of Raya, a separate mutt and
seal and various privileges in the temple for his brother Cakraraya. “Under
the orders of the Raya the two mutts were made distinct from each other
…. Reaching Srirangam he inspected the villages attached to the temple.
Thus did he swell the glory of Srirangam a hundred fold. IN collaboration
with the Jiyars, the Srivaisnavas, the ekangis and the Acaryapurusas he
maintained the established order of things without any slip and enjoyed the
title of ‘Raya and the appropriate birudas. Placing himself, at the head of
the group of the ‘Tiruppatiyar’ - the Koavanavar - he received the presents
due to him, while he obtained for his brother, the right of receiving the
presents due to the Senapati Durantara from the Raya. This state of
prosperity continued for both of them without diminution, in the two
respective mutts”. He is also said to have obtained a 100 villages from many
persons for the temple.41 (KO. pp.146-47 and p.155.) The Olugu
attributes to Cakraraya most of the repairs of damages caused to various
parts of the temple as a consequence of the Muslim raids and occupation,
like the shrines of Nammalvar and Srivaraha Nainar, and the Aryabhattal
gateway.42 (Ibid., pp.152-53 and 157-58.) The Olugu as well as the
Uttamanambi Vamsaprabhavam quote an inscription and say that in the year
Manmatha (1415) he had the ‘Sannidhi Garudan’ cast and installed in the
Alagiyamanavalan tirumantapa. Valiyadimai-nilaiyitta Uttamanambi too is
credited with some repairs of damages to the temple caused by the Muslim
occupation.43 (Ibid., pp.156-57.)

Officers and petty chiefs: Benefactors of the temple

An inscription in the Srirangam temple dated 1433 registers a gift of

the villages, Kodiyalam and Sirudavur, to Uttamanambi by (Anna) Chaudapa,
son of Adityadeva of the Vasista gotra, for conducting a car festival in the
temple on the day of Uttiradam, the natal star of the donor’s father. An
elephant was also presented to the temple for service during the same
festival.44 (7 of 1938-39; pt.II, para 45.) An incomplete record mentions
Annadata Dannayaka Udaiyar of the Harita gotra as the donor of land in
Uruttava-Bemmanahalli alias Srirangarajapuram in Mukkunra-nadu, a sub-
division of Perungondai-rajya for a service called after the donor.45 (7 of
1938-39; pt.II, para 45.) Another inscription refers to a certain
Annappamantri, whose son, Sripati, is said to have constructed a window
(dvara) to the pinnacle (valabhi) of the vimana of the temple.46 (57 of
1938-39; pt.II, para 45.) Though Annadata Udaiyar and Annappa-amantri
cannot be identified they may provisionally be assigned to the period round
about Devaraja II.

The Koil-Olugu refers to Anna Chaudapa as Anna Andappa Udaiyar and

says, evidently with reference to the inscription mentioned above, that he
conducted the dvajarohana of the car festival on the day of the Uttirattadi,
the natal star of Adityadeva, in the month of Purattasi of Paridapi (1433),
in the Trivikraman enclosure and, for its expenses endowed the village of
Kodiyalam.47 (KO.p.154, The inscription mentions the next year Pramadi.)
Eleven years later, in Rutrotkari 1444 Annappa Udaiyar is said to have
conducted the Kedakkuli-tirunal (festival of sporting in water) of the
Vasantotsava and endowed the village of Mallidevan-puttur for its expenses.
In the same year (Rutrotkari) he is also said to have constructed the wall of
Adayavalaindan enclosure (i.e. the street surrounding the temple) and the
base of the gateway and gopura.48 (Ibid., pp.154-55, 156; The Saka date
viz., 1385, seems to be wrong.) This Annappa Udaiyar or Anna Chaundappa
Udaiyar may be identified with the person of the same name mentioned in an
undated record at Jambukesvaram and assigned to 1436 by an inscription at
Mummudisolamangalam (Lalgudi Taluk, Thiruchirapalli district.)49 (134 of
1936-37, 143 of 1938-39.)

In S.1354, Paridapi, (A.D.1432) a certain Dennayakkar, with the

In S.1354, Paridapi, (A.D.1432) a certain Dennayakkar, with the
title Daksinasamudradipati is said to have provided for the building of a
shrine for Hanumantadeva and the installation of His image therein, by
endowing to the temple the village of Kilpattu-puttur.50 (KO. 153.) The
reference is obviously to Lakkanna Dandanayakka, the governor of Madurai
under Devaraya II. When this shrine was made over to the Randadaiyar
(probably Koil Kandadai Annan) the latter’s disciple, Narnsingadasan,
constructed a mukhamantapa for that shrine and consecrated an image of
Tiruppan Alvar therein.51 (Ibid.)

High-handedness of the Revenue collecting officers

Provincial government, in the Vijayanagar empire, was well organised,

and the different local divisions were left in charge of governors, who, it
would appear, enjoyed considerable freedom. In a few instances it is known
that the tax collecting officers, who were appointed by the emperor to
assist the governors, oppressed the people and their religious institutions.
For example an inscription of Devaraja II from Jambukesvaram, dated in
the cyclic year Plavanga (1427) states that the Mahesvaras of the Saiva
temple and one Marudavana Sivan brought to the notice of the Raya the
excessive demands made by the adhikaris and senai-bovas in the shape of
jodi and kanikkai for choutries and other levies, over and above the
vibhutikanikkai due to the king, in the sarvamanya lands belonging to the
Saiva and Vaisnava temples in the Tiruccirapalli, Solamandalam and
Valudilampattu rajyas, and that as a result of this oppression the cultivators
of the devadana lands threw up their holdings and migrated elsewhere thus
jeopardising the conduct of worship in the temple.52 (113 of 1936-37;
pt.II, para 56.) Three persons connected with the Srirangam temple
sacrificed their lives by casting themselves down from a gopura in 1489 as a
protest against the excessive taxation and persecution of the temple. We
hear of similar examples of oppression in later years too. ON a petition of
the people complaining against these new levies, in this case, the Raya sent
an order to his officer to the effect that no tax other than vibhutikanikkai
due to the king (like angasalaigal, vetti, vekali kaduvetta and amanji) was due
to be imposed on the devadana lands, and that the income from these lands
after the payment of the legitimate tax was to be enjoyed by the
respective temples, whose Mahesvaras and sthanikas were to be left free
with the conduct of worship, the performance of services and the
celebration of festivals. To enforce this order two agents (taravukkarar),
Bukka and Timma, were sent by the king to the south. The exacting officer
figuring in this inscription is Sirupparasar, who is mentioned elsewhere as the
governor of Padaivittu-rajya. He is mentioned in an epigraph in the
Srirangam temple dated 1444 as the father of Vitthanan, who is said to
have built the big car pavilion (ter mantapam) of the Srirangam temple.53
(96 of 1936-37.)



The allied local chronicles, viz., the Koil-Olugu, the Uttamanambi-

vamsaprabhavam, and the Sriranganarayana Jiyar Guruparamparai make
prominent mention of a boundary dispute between the Srirangam and
Jambukesvaram temples and how it was resolved by umpires from
Vijayanagara. It was the immemorial custom for the Ranganatha image to be
taken, on the eighth day of the Panguni-uttiram festival, from a point on
the northern bank of the Kaveri to a mantapa in the garden of
Tirumangaimannan on the southern bank of the Coleroon along an imaginary
boundary line running from the south to the north between the adjacent
Vaisnava and Saiva temples. This ceremony of the ‘eighth day’ (ettam
tirunal) is described in the Laksmi kavyam. From the Koil-Olugu it is known
that the God used to be taken, in the course of this procession along the
boundary line, into Tiruvanaikkaval or Jambukesvaram and His feet washed in
the tank there (Jambutirtham). After this short break the procession to
the garden of Tirumangaimannan was resumed. It would appear that the
Saivas of Jambukesvaram resented this intrusion; and this state of hostility
resulted ultimately in an armed attack on the one side and a terrible
retaliation on the other. The Saivas, who seem to have had the worse of
the conflict, immediately proceeded to Vijayanagar to plead their case. From
Srirangam Uttamanambi, the Jiyar and a few others went to Vijayanagar to
represent the Vaisnavas. The Raya heard the complaints on either side and
sent along with Uttamanambi to Srirangam “his guru Vyasa Udayar, Gopala
Udayar and Raghu Udayar” as arbitrators.54 (KO p.140.) Under their
supervision Uttamanambi “ran” (along) the boundary “starting from the four-
pillared mantapa with the two tiruvali (cakra) stones on the bank of the
southern kaveri”, and boundary stones were fixed in his tract.55 (Ibid.,
p.141 for details) The new boundary was laid north-south to the west of
the Jambutirtham, which was thus declared to be outside the area of
Srirangam. The Saivites were pacified. “From that time”, says the Olugu.
“the Perumal is taken to the boundary on the eighth day not to the east
(i.e., Jambukesvaram)”. The chronicle of the Srirangam temple obviously
tries to give credit to the Uttamanambi for having given up the claim to the
Jambutirtham voluntarily with a view to assuage the feelings of the Saivas.
It is more likely that the decisions was forced upon him by the mediating

The Koil-Olugu assigns the dispute to S.1297 Nala, or A.D.1376 and

says that the Uttamanambi, who was instrumental in settling the dispute was
Periya Krisnaraya Uttamanambi. Between him and Valiyadimai Nilaiyitta
Uttamanambi the Olugu makes no difference,56 (Ibid. p.142.) Where as the
Uttamanambi Vamsaprabhavam makes the latter the son of the former.
According to both the accounts Valiyadimai Nilaiyitta or Ellaikkarai Nilaiyitta
Uttamanambi was active on behalf of the temple from 1405 to 1450. Even
the Olugu gives certain details which prove beyond doubt that this
Uttamanambi and Periya Krisnaraya were different, e.g., it assigns to the
latter the period between Rutrotkari and Isvara (i.e.1383-97) and to the
former the period Sarvajit to Pramoduta (i.e.1407-50).57 (Ibid. pp.150
and 155.) In a different context it says that a boundary wall between
Srirangam and Kilaiyur (Jambukesvaram) was erected by Uttamanambi in
S.1355 or A.D.1433.58 (Ibid. p.154.) This must be Ellaikkarai-nilaiyitta
Uttamanambi, whose very name indicates that he was the one who
established the boundary. Now according to the Olugu, a wall was built in
1433 while sometime earlier boundary stones were fixed. The occasion was
provided by a bull, which is said to have escaped from Jambukesvaram and
“caused considerable damage to the gardens” in Velittirumuttam (open yard)
in Srirangam. “Unable to bear this the ekangis handled it severely as a
result of which considerable enmity arose between the people of Kilaiyur and
those of this shrine. In S.1355, Paridapi, Uttamanambi pacified both
parties and built the boundary wall.”59 (According to a Madhwa tradition
Vyasaraya (1478-1539), the minister and guru of Krishnadeva Raya (1509-
30), arbitrated in the boundary dispute and established a common boundary
line. This goes against the evidence furnished by the local chronicles.)



Vedantadesika lived, taught and wrote in the turbulent and anxious

days of the Muslim invasions; he had to flee for his life and suffer an exile
torn away from the abode of his heart, but happily he was able to witness,
in his last days, the liberation of the Srirangam temple. His death almost
coincided with the birth of Manavala Mahamuni, who had all the blessings of
peace for the propagation of his creed. In the years succeeding the
restoration of the temple again, we witness the same process of potential
conflict between the Bhasya and the prabanda schools working itself out,
without the effort of the parties and perhaps even without their knowledge.
Both Vedantadesika and Manavala Mahamuni have to be exempted from the
stigma of partisanship and secretarianism though, in course of time, they
came to be looked upon as the heads of the two rival creeds of Vaisnavism.
It is worthy of note that Manavala Mahamuni quotes freely from the works
of Vedantadesika.

Manavala Mahamuni was born in October, 1370 (in the month of

Aippasi of the cyclic year Sadarana, Kali 4461) in Alvar Tirunagari. His
father was called Tadarannaraiyar and his mother Annardevigal. As a
student of Tiruvaimolippillai he acquired a remarkable mastery over the
subject of the Divyaprabandas. He lost his father after his marriage and
erelong migrated to Srirangam, visiting the holy shrines of Srivilliputtur,
Tirumalirumsolai, etc., that lay on his route. In the course of his stay in
Tirunagari he wrote the Yatiraja-vimsati in praise of Ramanuja. The Koil-
Olugu says that in S.1347 or A.D.1425 Manavala Mahamuni had established
himself in Srirangam as Periya Jiyar, favoured with the grace of the
Perumal. The Annan Tirumaligai Olugu gives the date S.1327 (A.D.1405) for
his visit to Srirangam. It is said that Uttamanambi, who erred in the proper
execution of his administrative duties connected with the temple, was
corrected by Manavala Mahamuni. Uttamanambi took the chastisement of
Periya Jiyar in good spirits and became the fervetn disciple of the Jiyar.
With a view to attain proficiency in the Sribhasya Manavala Mahamuni left
Srirangam for Kanci, where he took lessons from Kidambi Nayanar. Thus
equipping himself with both the Sanskrit and Tamil pravacanas he returned to
Srirangam and settled down in the Pallavarayan mutt. He set himself to the
task of tireless oral exposition of the Divyaprabandas and writing down
commentaries on the works of Pillai Lokacarya. Under his supervision the
lectures of Vadakkuttiruvidi Pillai on the Tiruvaimoli, which had been
gathered into the famous ‘Idu 36,000’, were edited and published to the
outside world. To this commentary he added a gloss called the
Pramanattirattu. His other chief writings were a commentary on the Gita by
name Tatparyadipam and a compendium of the teachings of the several
Acaryas of the past, called Upadesaratnamalai. Eight chief disciples, known
as the Astadiggajas adorned the mutt of Manavala Mahamuni; they were
Vanamamalai Jiyar, Emberumanar Jiyar, Bhattarpiran Jiyar, Koil Kandadai
Annan Erumbi Appa, Appillai Appillar and Prativadi Bhayankaram Annan. Of
these Koil Kandadai Annan was a lineal descendant of Mudaliyandan, the
manager of the Srirangam temple in the time of Ramanuja, 60 (The Annan
Tirumaligai Olugu and the Koil-Olugu provide a genealogy of the Kandadais.).


(nephew and disciple of Ramanuja)

Kandadai Andan

Kandadai Tolappa

Periya Varadacaryar1 Chinna Varadacaryar Iyan Ramanujacarya

(Periya Ayi) (Cinnayi) (Vaduladesika)

Siddannar alias Deivangal Perumal Tolappar

Srirangaraja Nathan


Narasimhadesika alias

Periya Koil Kandadai Anna.3

1.who installed Karunarayana Jiyar in the gadi of Sriranganarayana Jiyar.

2. who managed the temple on the eve of the Muslim invasion of 1323.
After the invasion the Kandadais are said to have left Srirangam. They
returned during the administration of Elaikkarai-nilaiyitta Uttamanambi.

3. Perhaps an elder contemporary and disciple of Manavala Mahamuni.

And Prativadi Bhayankaram Anna was a Sanskrit scholar of Conjivaram,

learned in the Bhasya. The demise of Mahamuni is placed in S.1367 or

On the Vadakalai side the most important of the successors of

Vedantadesika were Varadacarya alias Nainaracaryar, his own son, and
Brahmatantra-svatantra Jiyar, one of his well-known sisyas. It is said that
Prativadi Bhayankaram Anann, who was originally a disciple of Nainaracaryar,
who was popularising the teachings of Vedantadesika in Srirangam, came into
conflict with Manavala Mahamuni, but was reconciled to him later. With
these personages the accounts in the Guruparampara is come to a close, and
from this period onwards we have to reckon the rise of the mathas of the
rival schools in which their sectarianism became more and more encrusted.


There are a few inscriptions of Mallikarjuna in the Srirangam temple.

One dated 1447 records an endowment made for offerings to God
One dated 1447 records an endowment made for offerings to God
Ranganatha in the names of 7 persons including Madanna Dannayaka (governor
of Muluvayirajya), Sirupparasar (governor of Padaivittu-rajya), Hiriya
Sirupparasa, Nagayamma and Ammakkamma.61 (33 of 1938-39; pt.II, para
46.) Another inscription dated in the next year 1448, registers gift of land
for a garden called Etirajan-tottam for rearing flowers, coconut trees etc.,
for the use of the temple by Karanika Ponnambalanatha, son of Karanika
Bharati Vitthanna of the Srivatsa gotra and left in charge of Uttamanambi.
The next record dated 1456 registers gift of land by purchase by Korpura
Malavaraya for rearing a garden for supply of vegetables and flowers to the
God. While describing the boundaries of the gift land Nanmugan-gopuram,
Akalankan tirumadil (wall) and Tirumangai Alvar tirumadil are mentioned.62
(92 of 1938-39.) A copper plate grant from Srirangam of Mallikarjuna
dated S.1384 or A.1462 (Citrabhanu), in which he is called Immadi
Devaraya and Immadi Praudhabhupati, registers a gift of the village
Uttamaceri-kiliyur, near Srirangam belonging to the Ciricitampalli-rajya, to
the God Sriranganatha. From the income of the village arrangements were to
be made for the daily offering of six complete dishes of food for the God,
the maintenance of a water-shed perpetually in front of the temple, and a
feeding of 60 Vaisnavas daily in the Ramanujakutam (choultry) as well as
three grand feedings, one in the month of phalguna and the other two in
Dhanus.63 (C.P.No.28 of 1905-6; EI XVI, p.345.)

The Koil-Olugu says that Tirumalainatha Uttamanambi, the author of

the Laksmi Kavyam and a grandson of Valiyadimainilaiyitta Uttamanambi,
proceeded to Vijayanagar and stayed in the court of the Raya from S.1366,
Raktaksi (A.D.1444) to the following Prajotpati (A.D.1451). During this
period, says the Olugu, he collected large endowments in cash and also
received 22 villages as benefactions to the temple from Praudhadeva Raya,
Mallikarjuna Raya and others. In the latter year he returned to Srirangam
and made certain additions and effected a few repairs to the temple. He
constructed the 100 pillared mantapa to the east of the Periyatirumantapa
and performed therein the ceremony of the Sahasrakalasabhiseka for the
God.64 (KO.p.159.) In S.1383 (A.D.1461) Mallikarjuna Raya removed the
bronze flag-staff in the Aniyarangam courtyard, and replaced it by a copper
one, which was covered with 102 gold plates containing the figures of the
elephant, the lion etc., and upon which he erected a gold plated image of
Garuda. The quantity of Gold expended on this occasion is said to be 1,600
palams.65 (Ibis., p.162.)



Virupaksa (1465-85) was the successor of Mallikarjuna and the last

ruler of the First Dynasty. In the days of these two rulers power at the
centre had considerably weakend and this opportunity was taken good
advantage of by external powers like the Gajapatis of Orissa and the
Bahmani Sultans. The Eastern Ganga king Kapilesvara Gajapati (1435-70)
declared a relentless war on the empire of Vijayanagar and before 1455 he
over-ran large slices of the empire, viz., Rajahmundry, Kondavidu,
Telangana, Udayagiri and parts of the Tamil country. The southern campaign
is placed in 1463. Candragiri, Kanci; Paidavidu, Tiruvarur and Tiruccirapalli
were overrun and a son of Kumara Hamvira, by name Kumara Kapilesvara
Mahapatra was entrusted with the government of the conquered territories
of the south. An inscription on the inner wall of the Aryabhattal gateway in
the Srirangam temple dated 1464 specifically mentions this prince. It
records the gift of a 1,000 cows by Daksina Kapilesvara Hambira-kumara
Mahapatra for supply of ghee for lamp and milk to God Srirangaraja.66 (140
of 1938-39 Inscriptions found in several places in South India, particularly
South Arcot district mention Oddian Galabai; Orissan invasion) sec.ARE,
1936-37, pt.II, para 59.) Another inscription in the temple dated 1471
refers to a garden called Mahapatran-toppu, evidently reminiscent of the
sojourn of this Hambira at Srirangam. It registers gift of land, after
purchase, by Pallikonda Perumal Karpura Malavarayar alias Alagiyamanavala-
dasar for providing flower garlands and coconuts to the temple and a further
gift of four housesites, by purchase, for the supply musti-madukaram
(alms). Two of the housesites were purchased from Uttamanambi. Among the
boundaries of the land is mentioned a garden called Mahapatran-toppu.67
(62 of 1938-39)

It is well known that the Orissan danger to empire of Vijayanagar was

warded off by Saluva Narasimha, the governor of Candragiri. His Victories
are described in detail by the Saluvabhyudayam of Rajanatha Dindima. The
Kalinga army was defeated and Udayagiri captured. Then he turned south
and passed though the shrines of Cidambaram, Kumbakonam Srirangam and
Jambukesvaram. His march was continued upto Ramesvaram and all the kings
in his track paid him homage. At Srirangam he is said to have made a
shortstay and inquired into the administration of the endowments made by his

The growing power of the Saluvas is reflected by an incident mentioned

in the Koil-Olugu of a conflict between Saluva Tirumalairaja and a revenue
collecting agent of the Raya (Mallikarjuna), by name Kamparaja. This
Tirumalairaja was a cousin of Saluva Narasimha,68 (Saluva Narasimha was a
son of Gunda III while Saluva Tirumalairaja was a son of Gopa and both
were great Grandsons of Saluva Mangu.) and governor of the Thiruchirapalli
region. The Olugu says, “when Kulitandal (i.e., land-revenue collector)
Kamparaja came to Thiruchirapalli as the agent of the Raya, bearing the
Rayamudra, Tirumalairaja said to him, ‘leave these territories to my
jurisdiction’, upon which enmity arose between these two.’69 (KO.p.159.) As
a result of this conflict, “all the inhabitants including the members of the
sabha and the nadu of the northern and southern banks of the Kaveri
deserted, in the month of Purattasi of the year Pramadi, S.1381
(September 1459), their villages and lived in the thousand pillared mantapa
and other places for 12 years”. Ultimately, however, in S.1393, Kara
(1471), the revenue collection in the region of Trichinopoly (Thiruchirapalli
sirmai-tandal sirmai) passed definitely under the jurisdiction of Tirumalairaja
and peace was established, when the cultivators returned to their respective
villages. There are two inscriptions of this Saluva Tirumalairaja alias Gopa
Timma, the patron of the poets Irattaiyar and Kalamegham, in the temples
of Srirangam and Jambukesvaram,70 (59 of 1892; SII IV 506; 67 of
1903.) former dated in 1463 and the latter in the cyclic year Srimukha,
i.e., 1453. The inscription in Srirangam registers that the incomes from the
various temple lands in the Trichinopoly and other regions71 (According to
this inscription the temple lands were situated in Tiruccirapalli-usavadi,
Milainadu, Melamuri, Kilamuri, Amurnadu; Tenkarai Rajagambhira valanadu,
Adiyamangalapparru, Vilavaradavilanadu; Vaialanadu, Tanjavur-sirmai,
Manarpidinadu, Nittavinodavalanadu, Sriparanrakanadu, Vittaparru
Venbanadu, Konadu, Tiruvarur Usauadi, Alagudiparru Jayangendasolavalanadu,
Idaiyarrunadu and other Sirmais.) were to be enjoyed and the lands
themselves managed, without any external interference, by the Sribhandara
of the temple. It also records the gift of certain jewels to the god of
Srirangam. The Koil-Olugu says that in the year Kara (A.D.1471) Saluva
Tirumalairaja reconstructed the northern gopura and gateway in the Alinadan
enclosure and also created a passage through the Alinadan wall (tattarai or
tavuttarai vasal) leading into the veliyalagiyan (manalveli) and thence to the
1,000 pillared mantapa. From this date, it is said, that the procession of
the god from the sanctum to the 1,000 pillared mantapa on the occasion of
the Tiruvaimoli-tirunal passed through the new gateway. This benefactor is
also said to have erected a pavilion of sandalwood, in the Alagiyamanavalan
tirumantapa, upon its dais a capra (canopied platform for deity) and a couch
made of ivory for divine enjoyment. This is now called the sandana
mantapam.72 (KO.p.164.) Regarding Kamparaja, the enemy of Tirumalairaja,
the Olugu says that he recast the images of Ganga and Yamuna, the
dvarapalikas of the deity Gopurangal Nayakan, that had been destroyed
during the Muslim occupation.73 (Ibid., p.163.)

After Saluva Tirumalairaja established his own right against the agent
of the Raya in 1471 Tirumalainatha Uttamanambi is said to have
reconstructed the shrine of Laksminarayana Perumal on the banks of the
Punaga tirtam and to have offered a capra of ivory for the Perumal. On the
night of the third day of a certain Panguni festival subsequent to that date,
the Perumal, who was being taken in procession on the horse vehicle, it is
said, was sheltered from rain in the threshold of the house of Uttamanambi,
who worshipped the god along with his people and bequeathed all his property
to the temple. From that year he provided for the Perumal being taken in a
palanquin on the third day of the Panguni festival.74 (Ibid., pp.160-161.)

In the last years of the first of Sangama dynasty of Vijayanagar the

Srirangam temple was managed by the two brothers of Tirumalainatha
Uttamanambi, viz., Krisnaraya Uttamanambi and Kudalsaravala Nainar. The
former is said to have received in Plavanga, 1487, twenty villages from a
certain Eramanji Timmappa Nayaka and others as endowments to the temple.
He firmly reconstructed a paddy granary of the temple which had become old
and dilapidated. In Virodhakrit, 1491, Kudalsaravala Nainar purchased a few
villages for the temple and reconstructed the Rajamahendran gateway that
had suffered during the Muslim occupation. ‘Kudalsaravala Nainar’ is a
corruption of ‘Kudalcakravala Nainar Uttamanambi Pillai’, who figures with
the significant title Ilandakalamedutta, i.e., ‘he who revived the past’, in an
inscription in Srirangam.75 (Ibid., pp.161-162; 81 of 1936-37; pt.II, para
49; EI. XXIV, pp.90 ff.) In his time Srinivasa alias Sriranga Garudavahana
Bhatta’ the son of alagiyamanavala Mangaladaraya, of the Bhattalkottu, who
has been identified with the author of the Divyasuricaritam, is said to have
reconstructed the Arogyasala, which had suffered damage as a result of the
vanam (Tulukka-vanam, i.e., Muslim raid or occupation) and installed in it an
image of Dhanvantri or the Divine Physician.76 (KO.pp.161-163.)

Copyright © 2005-2007, All rights reserved.
Events of Today

Chapter 8


N The Collapse of the code of Udayavar

The effect of state-control upon the temple administration
U The century and a half of rule of the members of the first (Sangama)
dynasty (1350-1490) saw the restoration of the Srirangam temple from
Muslim occupation as also the slow and gradual process of reorganisation
under the aegis of a family of temple managers called the Uttamanambis,
who proved to be the men of the moment. By their tireless activities a
number of villages were added on to the Sribhandara and the temple became
richer and richer. With the help of the numerous royal and private
benefactors many of the damages that parts of the temple and suffered as
a result of the Muslim raids and occupation for nearly half a century (1311
and 1323-1371) were repaired in course of time. The Uttamanambi-
vamsaprabhavam records that the number of villages owned by the temple at
this period was 292. Notwithstanding the reconsecration of the god
Alagiyamanavalan and the restoration of worship in the temple by the early
Vijayanagar chieftains in 1371 the chronicler in the Koil-Olugu feels sorry
that the Hindu resurrectionists did not care to revive and maintain the code
of regulations established by Udayavar, but carried on the administration of
the temple under the immediate supervision of their own officers and agents,
who disregarded the hereditary chiefs of the temple, like the decendants of
Mudaliyandan, the nominee of Udayavar, and encouraged their own favourites
and created some new offices. The local governors of the Vijayanagar
empire, it is said, constantly interfered in the affairs of the temple as a
result of which many headships arose leading to a considerable diversification
of the temple groups and their services. Says the Olugu, “At the time when
the Cera, Cola and Pandyan kingdoms were ruled over by a single king, and
later on, when three different kings ruled over the three kingdoms, right up
to the year S.1249, Aksya, kings refrained from ruling over the lands that
had been granted to temples and Brahmanas, which were under the control
of the Brahmanas themselves. The kings interfered only to investigate into
misdeeds and punish wrongdoers. Afterwards, when the Muhammadans
invaded the country and laid waste the endowments to temples and
Brahmanas, the Perumal, left Srirangam for various other shrines where He
resided temporarily. On the 17th of Vaikasi in the year Paridapi S.1293,
the Perumal returned to Srirangam. After this date all these kingdoms
passed under the control of the Raya, the Narpati. The Raya and the
various Durgadipatis gave many pieces of land back so the temple as gifts.
They appointed their own men as accountants and superintendents of the
temple as if it were an item of royal administration from the place.

Therefore the code of Udayavar collapsed. From the time of

Udayavar upto the Muhammadan occupation the honours due to the Kovanavar
were done without any default and in an unbroken lineage until the days of
Rangaraja Nayan in the line of Mudaliyandan. After the Muhammadan
occupation, when Srirangaraya of Uttamarkoil succeeded to the gaddi of
Sriranganarayana Jiyar, the first place in receiving tirtam etc., on the
western steps (leading to the sanctum) was given to the Jiyar for a few
days and, for a few days to Vaduladesikar in disregard of the honour due to
the mace (Senapati durantara, a Kovanavar. On certain other days tirtam
was offered to the Jiyar in the second place. On certain days Bhattar was
offered tirtam in the second place and the Jiyar in the third place. After
sometime all the three were offered tirtam simultaneously. The arulappadu
in the name of Vaduladesikar was stopped … Thus the adina of the
Kovanavar collapsed … from the days of the Raya the following offices arose
as a result of the constant interference of the Durgadipatis, and under the
seal of the Raya: a korattuparpatyakara (superintendent of the inner
services), a Sriranganarayana Jiyar as the head of the mutt, a
Uttamanambi, in course of time, who became the Ilamkelvi (Assistant
Superintendent), a cakraraya, created again under the Rayamudra, and
Kandadai Ramanuja exercising authority under the Desantri mudra. Thus the
single authority of the Kovanavar split itself into many offices. So also the
ten groups of Brahmana parijanas in the temple became diversified into many
divisions. The (rights of) services of certain groups were detached, in various
ways, from those groups and lodged in the Sribhandara. The groups of Sudra
servants too suffered the same fate. Thus the kottu-maryadai (groups and
their services) of Udayavar came to ruins. The order of things established
by him according to the sastric injunctions enunciated by the Perumal Himself
in the Pancaratra collapsed, Independently and in opposition to the rules
arose, in quite a novel manner, various honours due to Acaryapurusas, all
these groups of temple servants, their division into stanan samayam, etc.,
and the presents due to their services.”1 (KO. pp.171-173.)

Kandadai Ramanujadasa
The Koil-Olugu says that Vira Narasimha, the first king of the second
or Saluva dynasty, had an elder brother by name Ramaraja, who was well
learned in the sastras and who became a saint. He was an ardent devotee of
Anjaneya. In the course of his pilgrimage he went to Ayoddhi, where he
obtained Srirama’s gold coins (1/2 pagodas) and the sparsavedi (a mythical
weapon that destroys at touch). He returned to the capital, offered a
Rama’s coin to his brother and obtained from him a royal order to the effect
that he should be allowed to exercise full control over all the Vaisnava
shrines situated in the empire. With this authority he first went to Tirupati
Tirumalai and brought the shrines of Tirumalai Perumal under his control.
After visiting other shrines he came and settled in Srirangam in S.1411 or
A.D.1489. He became a fervent disciple of Kandadai Annan under the
dasyanama Kandadai Ramanujadasa. He is credited with the reorganisation of
the temple affairs and repairs and reconstruction of parts of the temple.2
(Ibid., pp.164.171.) More than 20 inscriptions in the Tirumalai Tirupati
temples, ranging between the dates 1465 and 1495 refers to Kandadai
Ramanuja Aiyangar.3 (Tirumalai Tirupati Devasthanam Inscriptions, vols.II
and III.) In these he is referred to as the manager of the gold treasury
(porbhandaram) of the temple of Venkateswara and the Ramanujakutams
(choultries) in Tirumalai and Tirupati. He was venerated by the Raya, who
perhaps regarded him as his guru. From inscriptions and literature it is
known that Saluva Narasimha’s elder brother was called Timmaraja but he
was not a saint and is not known as Kandadai Ramanujadas. The suffix
Aiyangar occurring in inscriptions is perhaps an honorific.

A few inscriptions in Srirangam refer to Kandadai Ramanuja Aiyangar

his benefactions, and his disciple Kandadai Madhava Aiyangar. An early
inscription dated in 1483 refers to a service founded in his name. It
registers a gift of land after purchase by Mahamandalesvara Timmayar, son
of Kamparasar Mallayar, for providing offerings to the god Tiruvarangacelvar
subsequent to the service called Ayodhya Ramanuja avasaram.4 (22 of
1938-39. Kamparasar, here, recalls Kamparaja.) Another inscription dated
1489 registers a gift of two villages on the bank of the Palar (in Padaividu
savadi in Tondaimandalam) by Kandadai Ayodhya Ramanuja Aiyangar, a
sattada-parama ekangi of Tiruvarangam Tirupati, who got them from their
brahmana owners, for offerings to the god during the Ramanuja-avasaram
and to feed with the offerings Srivaisnava Brahmanas in the
Ramanujayyangar Ramanujakutam situated to the west of the Pallavarayan
mutt in the eastern part of the southern row of the Vikrama-solan tiruvidi.5
(13 of 1938-39.) Two inscriptions dated in 1500 and 1515 mention Kandadai
Ramanuja Aiyangar as the dharmakarta (trustee) of the Ramanujakutam at
Tiruvarangam-Tirupati and his disciple Kandadai Madhava Aiyangar.6 (92 and
93 of 1936-37.) The latter is said to have constructed therein Vitthalesvar
and Madurakavi Alvar and arranged for their worship. A kitchen was also
provided for the shrine. In the subsequent Year (A.D.1515) two velis of
land belonging to the temple were allotted for the worship of these images.
The donor is also said to have constructed a mantapa and formed a garden,
evidently for this shrine. An inscription dated 1514 registers gift of money
to Kandadai Madhava Aiyangar, the disciple of Kandadai Ramanuja Aiyangar,
for providing offerings, worship, etc., to the god Krisnaraya during the
Srijayanti festival and to the goddess Sriranga Nacciyar during the
Mahanavami festival.7 (41 of 1938-39.) Another inscription dated 1520
registers a similar gift of money to the same person for providing offerings,
firstly, to Ranganatha on the second day of the Brahmotsava, while the god
halted in the mantapa constructed by him in his garden and, secondly, to
Krisnadeva Maharaya while the god (Krisna) halted in the garden adjoining
the pradhani Timmarasar toppu during the fifth day of the Masi festival.8
(42 of 1938-39) The last three inscriptions mentioned here belong to the
reign of Krisnadevaraya (1509-30) and it is interesting to note that god
Krisna is called Krisnaraya and Krisnadeva Maharaya.

The Koil-Olugu says that Kandadai Ramanuja, as the

Senapatidurantara or Korattu-parpatyakkara, daily assigned duties as was
laid down by Udayavar to the ekangis connected with the various
departments of the temple. As a result Uttamanambi came to occupy a
subordinate position in the temple as is clear from the statement in the
Olugu that he received tirtam and prasadam after Kandadai Ramanuja. The
chronicle narrates a number of services rendered by this benefactor to the
temple. It is said that in Sarvajit (1527), there was a breach, consequent
on floods in the Kaveri, which established a link between this river and the
Coleroon to the west of the boundary wall near Anaikkaval in the east. When
the floods abated the channel between the two shrines (Srirangam and
Anaikkaval) had left a long and deep trench, which Kandadai Ramanuja filled
up with earth and thus restored communication between them. The
reconstruction of the Akalangan wall and its eastern gopura, the northern
and southern gopuras of the wall of Virasundarabrahmarayar (the 6th wall)
and the shrine of Vitthalesvara, a fresh pavement of the 1000 pillared
mantapa, the erection of the unjal (swing) mantapa to the south-east of the
Aniyarangan courtyard and the repairs of the granaries are credited to him.
He had many vessels and jewels made for the use of the god and gave a gold
coating to the sacred vimana and the divine vehicles.
The Oppression of Koneriraja:

The de facto successor of Saluva Narasimha was his redoubtable

general Narasa Nayaka. While the former concentrated his attention on
putting down the aggressive activities of the Bahmini Sultan and the Gajapati
of Orissa the latter turned against the refractory chieftains and governors
of the South. One such was Konetiraja or Koneriraja, who succeeded Saluva
Tirumalairaja as the governor of the Thiruchirapalli region. From his
inscriptions it is known that he was governor between the years 1488 and
1492. That he was practically independent could be inferred from the
various titles he assumed viz., Mahamandalesvara, Maharaja, Raya
Bhasavasankara, (which incidentally reveals his Saivite leanings),
Rajarajaraganda, Kancipuravaradhisvara, etc.9 (259 of 1911; 74 of 1913;
396 of 1918; 49, 51 and 54 of 1920.) Taking advantage of the failure of
the de jure sovereignty, i.e., the sons of Saluva Narasimha, he had grown
insubordinate. The Acyutarayabhyudym referes to Konetiraja as “the hero
unrivalled in the world, who caused confusion to the army of the enemies”
and says that he attacked Narsa Nayaka with his elephant forces but was
defeated and taken prisoner.10 (S.K.Aiyangar, Sources of Vijayanagar
History, p.109.) The Koil-Olugu gives clear indications of his high handed and
oppressive rule in relation to the Srirangam temple.11 (KO.p.166-67) It
says that Koneriraja favoured the Siva temple at Anaikkaval
(Jambukesvaram) at the cost of the Vaisnava temple at Srirangam. He
allowed the people of Jambukesvaram to encroach upon the estates of the
Srirangam temple, leased its cultivable lands to co-heirs like Kottai
Samandanar and Senrappa Nayakkar, took away from the temple a lot of
gold in the name of taxes like pattanavari, kanikkai, pattu pativattam, and
kudiyiruppu and oppressed the Vaisnavas of the temple in various ways.
Helpless against such oppression and harassment two jiyas and a few ekangis
of the temple ascended the eastern gopure of the Akalangan enclosure (the
Vellai Gopuram or the white tower) and sacrificed their lives by casting
themselves down. This satyagraha however, was fruitless and Koneriraja
continued his oppressive exactions. Kandadai Ramanuja Aiyangar made
repeated complaints to Narasa Nayaka about this state of affairs. The
latter came to Tiruccirapalli with large armies and defeated and killed
Koneriraja in battle. He had the temple lands released from the leases that
had been effected by Koneriraja and made them tax and his father Nagama
Nayaka are said to have come to the temple and offered worship to
Ranganatha, which was arranged by Kandadai Ramanuja.12 (Narasa Nayaka’s
father was Isvara Nayaka and not Nagama Nayaka. The Olugu, obviously,
has made a confusion between Narasa Nayaka, and Viswanatha Nayaka.)
Narasa Nayaka offered to the Perumal many jewels like a necklace of pearls
and diamonds with a pendent, eating plates, tiruvencamaras or chauries and
many varieties of silk cloth or pitambara for the adornment of the idol. To
commemorate his own name he made a permanent provision for the
maintenance of a 100 maid-servants for the pounding and shifting of paddy
and other grains in the store-house. The Olugu adds that he appointed
(Kandadai) Madhava Aiyangar to supervise the proper supply of the day to
day requirements of the temple involved in the decoration of the divine
image, worship of the Perumal, etc.

The incident of self immolation as a protest against the harassment of

the temple is attested by an inscription in the Srirangam temple incised in
characters of the 15th century over a panel containing the image of an
ascetic wielding a sickle in his hands, sculptured on the jamb of the Vellai
gopuram.13 (87 of 1936-37; pt.para 78) This record gives the cyclic year
Saumya, corresponding to A.D.1487-90. It states that Periyalvar, the
agent or Srikaryam of Ilandakalamedutta Alagiyamanavaladasan, flung himself
down from the gopura and lost his life to show his protest against the
withholding of the scale of allowances in the temple and the great
irregularities that prevailed in the conduct of worship. Alagiyamanavaladasan
of this inscription may be identical with Alagiyamanavala Jiyar, who is stated
to have held the gaddi of Sriranganarayana Jiyar between the years S.1389
and S.1409 (A.D.1467-1487).14 (No.13 in the Sriranganarayana Jiyar
Guruparamparai.) As a result of this protest full padittaram, i.e.,
allowance, was subsequently restored and in memory of this act of self
immolation the blowing of the ekkalam and the privilege of being carried in
procession in a car and other honours were shown to an image of this
Periyalvar. The other jamb of the Vellai gopura opposite to the one
containing this panel, has two identical figurines without any explanatory
inscription. Most probably these three constitute the Jiyar and the ekangis
referred to by the Olugu, which says that Kandadai Ramanujan had the
images carved and the inscription incised to commemorate the satyagrahis.
An inscription on a stone slab to the east of southern Raya gopura refers to
another satyagrahi called Appa Aiyangar, the agent or Srikaryam of
Alagiyamanavaladasan.15 (S.I.Temple Inscriptions Vol.2, p.733.) He is
stated to have cast himself down from the top of this gopura and sacrified
his life to protest against withholding of all allowances and mismanagement of
the temple.

Two inscriptions of Mahamadalesvara Konerideva Maharaja from

Srirangam dated in the cyclic year Paridapi (1492) would make one feel that
Koneriraja was not after all such a Saiva bigot prejudiced against the
Vaisnava temple at Srirangam as depicted in the Koil-Olugu,16 (115 and 116
of 1937-38.) perhaps his oppression was purely on the administrative side.
For these epigraphs record his benefactions to the Vaisnava temple; a gift
of the doors of the gopura gateway, now called the Sokkappanai-vasal
(karttikai-gopuram) and an endowment of three velis of land in Piccandarkoil
(Bikshandarkoil near Srirangam) for providing musarodaram (curd-rice
offerings). Probably he gave these gifts more in the capacity of a governor
of the country than as a pious benefactor of the Vaisnava temple. It may
also be noted that he does not figure as a great benefactor of the Saiva
temple at Jambukesvaram.

The inscriptions of Krisnadevaraya in the Srirangam Temple

The circumstances under which the dynasty of Saluva Narasimha was

cut short as a result of the assassination of both of his sons and how the
dynasty of Narasa Nayaka, the Tuluvas, was established in power are well
known. Vira Narasimha (1505-1509), the first of the Tuluvas and a son of
Narasa Nayaka, was succeeded by his half-brother, Krisnadevaraja (1509-
1531), a son of Narasa Nayaka by Nagaladevi, and the greatest of the
Vijayanagara kings. The next set of inscriptions in the Srirangam temple
coming under our purview belong to the reign of this king. Some of these are
copper plate grants in the custody of the temple and register gifts of
villages to Brahmanas. The Srirangam temple appears as donee in a few
cases. The earliest is a stone epigraph dated 1511.16a (257 of 1929-30.)
It registers a gift of land in the village of Manakkudi Sendamaraikkannanallur
alias Gangaiyanpettai in Uraiyur-kurram, a sub-division of Tenkarai
Rajagambhira-valanadu to the temple of Sriranganathadeva for daily and
special offerings to the god by Lingayan, son of Patsala Nagusetti of
Punnagasila gotra, a traivarnika of the Perungondairajya. The next is a
copper plate inscription dated 1514.17 (C.P.No.23 of 1905-06; EI.
XVIII.pp.160-2.) It says that on the Go-dvadasi tithi (Asvina sukla
Dvadasi) in the month of Karttika of that year Krisnadevaraya, being in the
presence of god Virupaksa in the temple at Vijayanagara, granted the village
of Ennakkudi, christened as Krisnarayapuram to Allala Bhatta, son of
Varadarajarya, who was a master of the six systems of philosophy. On this
occasion the king made the Gosahasra mahadana (gift of a 1,000 cows to
Brahmanas). The village was situated on the banks of the Kaveri, but it
exact location has not been made out because some of its neighbouring
villages, whose names are given, viz., Pelaikkudi and Karkaktai, have not
been identified. The fact that the copper plate grant was obtained from the
Srirangam temple suggests that the donee or his successors might have
gifted away the village to the temple.

Three inscriptions of Krisnaraya dated in 1514, 1515 and 1520 have

been already referred to while dealing with Kandadai Ramanuja Iyengar and
his disciple Madhava Iyengar. An inscription dated 1516 is important because
it says that in that year Krisnadevaraya visited Srirangam and made a gift
of five villages for providing offerings and worship to the god. In the
preamble a list of the conquests of the king is given.18 (98 of 1938-39.) In
Kannanur there is an inscription of Krishnadevaraya dated 1517. It records
remission of certain taxes amounting to 10,000 gold pieces and consisting of
jodi, sulavari, piravari and arasuperu in favour of a number of Saiva and
Vaisnava temples in the Tamil country.19 (Punjai inscription of
Krisnadevaraya, K.A.Nilakanta Sastri.) The next inscription, dated
1518, registers a gift of the village Ninnaiyur in Kilangu-nadu in
Rajarajapura-cavadi by Rayasam Kodnanarasayya for providing offerings and
worship to the god Ranganatha.20 (66 of 1938-39.) The donor was an
officer of the king, perhaps secretary. An inscription dated 1522 registers
a gift of money by Timmappa, son of Peddappa Nayaka, the vasalbokisam
(palace treasury officer) of Krisnarayar Maharayar for providing offering to
the god on the occasion of the padivettai on the third day of the
Sankramana festival.21 (68 of 1938-39.) The next inscription is dated in
the next year. It registers a gift of land at Ninriyur by a certain Manalur
Pillai Appayan for the celebration of the Sriramanavami festival in the
Srirangam temple. The land had been originally granted to the donor by
Krisnadevaraya in the cyclic year Bhava (1514).22 (265 of 1929-30.) The
next inscription bears the date S.1446 (A.D.1524) and mentions
Tirumalaideva Maharaja as the reigning king.23 (265 of 1929-30.) This was
the son of Krisnadevaraya, who was crowned heir apparent in his 6th year
and who died the very same year. He is represented by a few inscriptions,
all dated in 1524. The one at Srirangam registers a gift of 10,500
cakrapanam (silver coins) for the provision of midnight offerings to god
Ranganatha by Ramanujadas alias Laksmipati Setti and his brother Antappa,
sons of Tippu Setti of the Sahasra gotra and disciples of Kandadai Nainar
Aiyangar. This also registers gift of money by the former for certain
ornaments to the images of the god and the goddess. Another inscription of
the same year records an order of the king to his pradhani Timmarasaiyan,
making a gift of the village Tandakurai as Tiruvidaiyattam to the temple for
offerings to the deity and for feeding devotees in the Ramanujakutam.24
(258 of 1929-30) The next, dated 1526, states that the king plated with
gold the two doors of the first mantapa. This probably refers to the doors
gold the two doors of the first mantapa. This probably refers to the doors
of the sanctum rather than the two doorways of the Alagiyamanavalan
tirumantapa. It registers, in addition, the gift of a circular pitha to the god
by one Isvara, the brother of Ananta of the Bharadwaraj gotra.25 (120 of
1937-38) An inscription dated in the next year registers gift of the village
Guhapriyam to the god and provision made for the feeding of Srivaisnavas in
the Kandadai-nayan-tirumaligai.26 (73 of 1938-39.) Another inscription
connected with the above states that Vasavyya-Nayaka, son of Kobala
Tippan Nayak having died, his sons Periya Ramappa and Siru Ramappa, made
a gift of the village, Guhapriyam, as poliyuttu to the god for providing
offerings and worship in the Vasavyya Nayakkan mantapa on the day of
their father’s (death) anniversary.27 (74 of 1938-39.) A village was
granted, in other words, for providing special offerings to the god on the
occasion of the death anniversary of an individual.

The next inscription is a copper plate grant dated in S.1540

(A.D.1528). Like the one dated fourteen years earlier, considered above, it
records the grant of a village by the king, on the day of Utthana-dvadasi.
On that day, in the month of Karttika, the king made a grant of a village
called Vadabur-Ekambarapuram, christened as Krisnarayapuram situated on
the southern bank of the river Kaveri in the Tiruvalursima (Nagappattinam
Taluk) of the Colamandala, to a number of brahmanas of various gotras,
sutras and vedas.28 (C.P.No.10 of 1936-37.) It cannot be said definitely
that this village subsequently passed under the control of the Srirangam
temple. The fact that the temple was in possession of this grant might
suggest such an inference, but it is clear that, far distant as it was, the
village could not have been of any practical use to the temple. No king is
mentioned in the next inscription but it gives the date 1529. It registers
gift of money by Malikuniyaninaperumal Aiyangar, son of Vedavyasabattan
Rangaiyanagar of the Harita gotra for offerings, etc., during the Kausika-
tirunal festival in the temple.29 (19 of 1938-39) The last of the series is
dated (1530) and it mentions a chief by name Cennaya Balayadeva, who
figures as king and donor.30 (56 of 1892; SII IV 503.) The chief calls
himself a maharaja and an ornament of the Cola race and assumes the
characteristic Telugu Coda titles like Uraiyurpurvaradhisvara. From a few
inscriptions it is known that Telugu Codas, claiming direct discent from the
Colas of the Tamil country, survived as the 16th century. The Vijayanagar
chronicles of this period allude to Cola kings reigning in south India. In the
Saluvabhyudayam Cola king figures as one of the enemies of Saluva
Narasimha.31 (Dr.S.K.Aiyangar, sources p.91) A Cola is also said to have
opposed the advance of Narasa Nayaka in the south.32 (Further sources,
vol.1, pp.168-9.) The Cola chieftains of this period were invariably the
vol.1, pp.168-9.) The Cola chieftains of this period were invariably the
feudatories of the Vijayanagar sovereigns though they called themselves
Maharaja. The inscription under reference records the following gifts of
Cennaya Balayadeva: gold for offerings to the god Sriranganatha, gold
ornaments, silver vessels and a garden to the god and the goddess Niculavalli
or Uraiyurvalli Nacciyar, whose procession image he newly set up in the
temple at Srirangam. To the garden donated in the name of Uraiyur
Nacciyar the Perumal was brought on the 8th festival day in the month of
Masi, and this is mentioned as the Cattalo or grant of Perumal Krisnarayar.
Previous and offerings to be made to the god on this occasion are detailed
and Alagiyamanavala Jiyar and Ember Iyengar are mentioned as the
beneficiaries. The son of this donor, also called Balayadeva Maharaja, is
known to have been one of the feudatories of Acyuta, the successor of
Krishnadevaraya.33 (ARE., 1915-16, pt.II, para 67.)

Acyutaraya and the Srirangam Temple

There are numerous inscriptions of Acyutaraya (1530-1541) in the

Srirangam temple, which bring him, his family and his officers into intimate
contact with the shrine. Incidentally they reflect its prosperity. It is well
known that the king made Srirangam his headquarters in the course of his
southern expedition (1532).

While the southern territories acknowledged the supremacy of

Krisnadevaraya they seem to have grown restive soon after his death. The
Acyutarayabhyudayam gives details of the southern expedition of
Acyutaraya. It is said that Vira Narasinga Nayaka or Saluva Dannayakka,
better known as Cellappa or Sellapa, one of the subordinate governors of the
Raya, vevolted and after being defeated in battle, fled to Travancore for
protection. Sellappa and the king of Travancore, the Cere, joined together
and drove the Pandya out of his ancestral territories. On the appeal of the
Pandya for help the Raya marched south against the Cera.

The Acyutarayabhyudayam traces Acyuta’s march in detail. The Raya

started from Vijayanagar and reached Srirangam via Tirupati, Kanci and
Tiruvannamalai, upon whose shrines he showered his rich donations. While at
Srirangam his brother-in-law, Salakaraju Timmaraju, requested that he be
placed in command of the rest of the expedition. To this Acyuta consented
and himself camped at Srirangam. The campaign was successful and the
rebels were brought as prisoners.

The following is the list of the inscriptions of Acyutaraya in the

Srirangam temple arranged chronologically. Among the donors are private
individuals in addition to the king, the queens and his officers. The earliest is
dated 1530.34 (263 of 1929-30) It records gift of gold by Timmaiyanagar,
son of Obalayya of Sindakula gotra of Kundur, the disciple of
Ramanujaiyangar for the provision of offerings to the god Sriranganatha on
the fourth day of the Bhupati-Udaiyar festival. Another inscription of the
same year registers the gift of the annual income from the village Vayiruchi
in Sela-nadu, a sub-division of Kunrathurcavadi by a subordinate of the king
by name Timmarasa alias Krisnaraya Nayaka, son of Dandu Obalarasa for
daily offerings in the temple.35 (266 of 1929-30.) The next inscription,
dated 1531, registers gift of land in Pudukkudi in Mala-nadu by Ellamarasa,
son of Anantayyan of the Atreya-gotra, a resident of Padirikuppam in the
Chandragiri-rajya for the provision of offerings and worship to the god
during the festival called Bhupati-Udaiyar-tirunal celebrated in the moth of
Tai.36 (24 of 1938-39.) The donor is said to have been a mace-bearer of
the god.

The next inscription, dated in S.1454 (A.D.1532), refers to the visit

to the temple of the king with his queens, Varadacci Amman and Oduva
Tirumalai Amman, and prince Cikka Venkatadri, and registers the royal gift
of 1,200 gold coins (pon) and three villages for conducting with the income
thereon services (sandi) to the god in their respective names.37 (16 of
1938-39; part II, para 52.) This inscription incidentally gives a full list of
the king’s military achievements, in the prasasti portion. It also refers to a
certain Nallar Aiyangar as the king’s preceptor (nammudaiyagurukkal).
Another inscription also dated 1532, registers a gift of land in Vadakarai
Sedangudi by Vallabhamman, the wife of Salakkaraja (probably the same as
the father-in-law of Acyuta), and disciple of Tirumalai Tattamangar
Nallatayar Amman for offerings and worship to the image of Sriranganatha
on the occasion of the brahmotsava in the month of Tai.38 (259 of 1929-
30.) The next inscription, dated 1533, registers gift of land in Turaiyur and
Muttarasanallur by Sankarasayyan, the nephew of Avasaram Mallarasayyan,
for providing, for the merit of the king, offerings to the god in the thousand
pillared mantapa during the Vedaparayana tirumal (Adyayanotsava) in the
month of Dhanus.39 (36 of 1938-39.) The next inscription dated 1534
registers the gift of the village Ten-pirambil in Pirambilparru, a subdivision
of Karambainadu by Kasuvu Settiyar, son of Uttukkur Tammu Settiyar of
the Parambala gotra, a traivarnika of Perungondai, for offerings to the god
Sriranganatha in Vilavaravidivalanadu, a district of Tenkarai
Pandikalasanivalanadu Vila-ara-vidi or, the ‘street where the festivals do not
cease’ refers to the Citra street and it would appear that this street had
given its name to a small division of the kingdom.40 (260 of 1929-30)
given its name to a small division of the kingdom.40 (260 of 1929-30)
The next inscription dated 1534 registers the gift of the village
Vadaverkudi in lieu of 500 pon granted as loan, by Peria Tirumalairaja, son
of Salakaiyadeva Maharaja, for providing daily offerings to the god, as the
service of Anantamman, mother of the donor.41 (70 of 1938-39) A portion
of the offered food was to be given for feeding of Vaisnavas in the
Tirumaligai of Appan, son of Kandadai Annan. There are four inscriptions
dated in the year 1535. One records provision made for offerings to the god
during the three services instituted on behalf of the king, queen Varadachi
Amman and prince Kumara Venkatadri by Avasaram Mailarasayyan, an officer
of the king mentioned above.42 (37 of 1938-39) A portion of the offered
food was to be set apart for feeding at nights Brahmanas, Sudras and
Pradesis in a catram and for maintaining water sheds at the northern and
eastern gateways (of the temple). Another registers several gifts of god
vessels, ornaments, etc. made to the temple by the king, the queen and the
prince during the regime of Avasaram Mallarasa.43 (39 of 1938-39) The
third inscription states that Mahamandalesvara Periya Tirumalaideva
Maharaja (Salakaraju Tirumala), son of Salakaiyadeva Maharaja, presented
to the god a gold pendent or padakam.44 (40 of 1938-39) The fourth
registers a gift of gold by Periya Konamman, wife of Periya Tirumalaideva
Maharaja, son of Salakaiyadeva Maharaja, of the suryavamsa, for offerings
to the god, from which Srivaisnavas had to be fed in the Tirumaligai of
Kandadai Annan Appan of the Vadhula gotra.45 (3 of 1938-39)

An inscription dated 1536 records gift of money by Gnananidhi Udaiyar

for maintaining a perpetual lamp in the temple for the merit of his teacher
Laksminarayana Udaiyar.46 (262 of 1929-30) The next inscription dated
1537 registers the gift of the village Uraiyur, by the king, for providing
offerings and worship to the god on certain specified occasions through
Ramabhattarayan, son of Bhutanatha Tittisna Bhattar, of the Gautama
gotra.47 (114 of 1938-39) Another inscription, dated in the same year,
registers gift of the village Nannur, in Rajagambhiravalanadu, by Adaippattu
Sirumallappa Nayaka, an officer of the king, for providing offerings and
flower-garlands to the god.48 (26 of 1938-39) A third inscription, dated in
the same year and engraved on a pillar in the mantapa called the
Acyutarayamantapa on the road leading to Jambukesvaram, states that as
the four pillared mantapa to the west of the tank outside the
Jambukesvaram temple was found insufficient to accommodate the deity on
the seventh day festival (ellaikarai tirumal) of the Brahmotsava Sankarasa,
son of the Avasaram officer Mallarasayya, enlarged it and converted it into
a sixteen pillared mantapa and provided for offerings to the god as the gift
of Acyutadeva Maharaya.49 (123 of 1937-38) The next inscription dated
of Acyutadeva Maharaya.49 (123 of 1937-38) The next inscription dated
1538 registers gift of two velis of land for providing offerings to Tiruvali-
Alvan (Cakrattalvar) by Ramacandran alias Sriranganarayana Jiyar
Brahmaraya, son of Narasimha Bhatta of the Kousika gotra, which he had
obtained from his guru, Sriranganarayana Jiyar, on the occasion of Makara
Sankaranti at the time of his spiritual initiation.50 (152 of 1938-39)

The next inscription dated 1539 registers a gift by the king of a

pearl cuirass (metal breast and back plate) to the god Ranganatha and a
jeweled crown for the goddess.51 (151 of 1938-39) The same inscription
also registers a gift of two kshetra of land in Sangamavalli, received from
Sriranganarayana (jiyar) by Ramacandra for providing offerings (to
Cakrattalvar). This record is found inscribed on the southern wall of the
Cakrattalvar shrine and is obviously connected with the epigraph mentioned in
the above para. Another inscription dated in the same year states that the
king performed tulabhara-mahadana, in commemoration of which is rajamahisi
Oduva Tirumaladevi Amman composed two verses celebrating the ananda-
nidhi-dana made by the king on the occasion. These verses were recorded on
stone along with the inscription during the regime of Srirangappa Nayaka,
son of Tuluva Vengala Nayaka, an officer of the king.52 (15 of 1938-39) A
still another record of the same year registers a royal gift to Sriranganatha
of a kirita (crown) and karna-patra (ear-ornament) made through
Vengalayya, the Rayasam of Ramabhattayya.53 (1 of 1938-39) Another
record of the same year mentions Cennaya Balayadeva, an officer of the
king, and registers his gift of the village Kadambankurici in Kilangunadu
belonging to Rajarajapuraccavadi, for providing curd-rice offerings to
Uraiyurvalli Nacciyar.54 (2 of 1938-39) The donor, like his father
(referred to in an inscription of Krisnadevaraya, above calls himself a
Maharaja and bears a number of birudas like Uraiyurpuravaradisvara,
Colakulatilaka, etc. In addition to the village the record registers the gift of
gold and silver ornaments to the goddess by the same chief. In the epigraph
cited above his father is stated to have installed the image of Uraiyurvalli
Nacciyar in the Srirangam temple.

Another inscription dated in the same year viz., 1539, is of historical

importance. It registers a renewal of the gift of the village, Uttamasili,
which had been granted to the temple for the maintenance of the
Ramanujakutam. The endowment had lapsed and hence the renewal.55 (264
of 1929-30) The renewal itself was done with the help of an old copper
plate grant, which was found out by Singaracar, the agent of the
Ramanujakutam, and presented to Viswanatha Nayaka of Thiruchirapalli-
cavadi. For the first time in a purely epigraphical history of Srirangam we
come across the name of Viswanatha Nayaka as the governor of the
Thiruchirapalli region. The hero of the incident stated in this inscription and
the man of authority on the spot in the year 1539 was Viswanatha Nayaka.
By about this year it would appear that the Nayak viceroys had begun to
administer in full authority the regions of Madurai and Thiruchirapalli that
were allotted to them by the Raya of Vijayanagar. We shall next turn to
the patronage extended by these Nayak rulers to the Srirangam temple.

The above inscriptions show that the administration of the temple had
settled down under royal, authority and patronage and that there was
neither excessive official interference nor oppressive exactions.


Copyright © 2005-2007, All rights reserved.

Events of Today

Chapter 9


The Nayak rule over the regions of Madurai and
N Tiruccirapalli commenced under Visvanatha Nayaka sometime in the last years
of Krisnadevaraya of the first of Acyutaraya. In theory the Nayaks were
E viceroys of the Rayas of Vijayanagar but in effect they ruled independently.
In their early inscriptions the name of the Raya ruling from Ghanagiri
(Pennukonda) is invariably mentioned. As Tiruccirapalli was their alternate
action. Some of them, e.g., Vijayaranga Cokkanatha Nayaka. Their
particular service to the temple was in the direction of repairs and
reconstruction of the various sub-shrines, gopuras and mantapas in the outer
prakaras. Their association with the temple is attested by the numerous
Nayak portrait stone images set up on the bases of pillars in the mantapas
and prakaras in the temple. The ceilings and walls of the tiruvunnali as well
as the pradaksina and prakara of the Nacciyar shrine were painted over
with scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, almost all of which
are now practically obliterated. Here and there are few Nayak images. A
few labels in Telugu are also visible.

Tradition Visvanatha Nayaka 1529-1564 associates the fortifications

of Thiruchirapalli, the teppakulam (tank) and the town itself with Visvanatha
Nayaka, the first of the Madura Nayaks. An inscription in the Srirangam
temple dated 1536 records the gift of four silver chains for the swinging
couch (unjal-mancam) of the god by the king (Acyutaraja), who entrusted
them to Visvanatha Nayak.1 (43 of 1938-39) Another inscription dated
1538 is a bit damaged. It seems to registers a gift of two villages in
Malanadu in Tiruccirapalli-usavadi, by Tirumalai Nayaka, son of Kacci
Visvanatha Nayak, for providing offerings and worship to the god
Tiruvenkatanatha consecrated at ellaikkarai (boundary between Srirangam
and Jambukesvaram) by the former, for the merit of Acyutaraya Maharaya
and Cikkaraya.2 (111 of 1938-39) The mention of Kacci or Kanchipuram
need not pose any difficulty as an epigraph from Perungulam (Tinnevelly
district) states that Visvanatha Nayak hailed from Kanchipuram and
Tondaimandalam.3 (ARE. 1932-33, para 58) The Koil-Olugu says that
Visvanatha Nayak offered to the Srirangam temple many jewels and vessels
like pancapatra and platters, a censer and a sahasradarai (1,000 holded)
plate, all in gold, under the guidance of his guru Vaduladesika
Narasimhacarya. He also conducted various festivities for the god
Ranganatha and these benefactions cost him three lacs of gold pieces.4
(KO.p.174) His preceptor, it may be mentioned here, belonged to the family
of Mudaliyandan.

Inscriptions of Sadasivaraya (1542-1565) in the Srirangam Temple

It is well known that Sadasivaraya (1542-1565) was a king only in

name, that soon after his accession to the throne a struggle for power
ensued between the brothers Salakraju Tirumalas, who were brothers-in-law
of Acyutaraya, on the one side and Ramaraja, the son-in-law of
Krisnadevaraya, successful. He paid Sadasivaraya all the deference due to a
crowned king but kept real power in his own hands. Hence the numerous
inscriptions in the Srirangam temple, which mention Sadasiva, do not refer to
his visits to the temple nor his gifts, but register gifts mostly of private
individuals, royal officers and members of the Araviti family, to which
Ramaraja belonged.

The earliest inscription dated 1544 registers the gift of the income
from two villages Viramanallur and Kumaramangalam for the provision of
pulugu-kappu (civet ointment) to the god every Friday.5 (81 of 1937-38)
Another inscription dated in the same year records a gift of the village
Marudur in Paccil-kurram in Malainadu, a sub-division of Vadakarai
Rajarajavalanadu, in Thiruchirapalli-usavadi by Vitthaladeva Maharaja son of
Timmarayadeva Maharaja for the provision of offerings and worship to the
god Sriranganatha at Tiruvaranagam Tiruppati, valanadu.6 (8 of 1936-37;
pt.II, para 62) Vitthaladeva and Cinna Timma were cousin of Ramaraja and
these were sent on a southern expedition to quell the aggressive tendencies
of the king of Travancore and the political as well as the prosletyzing
activities of the Portuguese missionaries established on the Travancore
coast. The inscription further states that Vitthala defeated some
Kuravanniyar and reopened the Srirangam temple which had been closed for
sometime and revived worship therein. It is difficult to find out who exactly
were the Kuravanniyar which may mean ‘petty chieftains’ whom Vitthala
defeated and whose hostile activities had necessitated the closing of the
Srirangam temple for some time. The Koil-Olugu does not refer to any such
incident. At this time Visvanatha Nayak was ruling over Tiruccirapalli as the
viceroy of the Raya and he would not have suffered any major enemy to
exist by his side. As the very name indicates the Kurunilamannar or
Kuravanniyar were perhaps some of the petty estate holders or polegars
recognised by Visvanatha Nayaka for purposes of local government and
military organisation. It may also be stated that Manniyar or Vanniar figure
among the victims of Acyutaraya in the course of his southern expeditions in
his inscriptions as well as the Acyutarayabhyudayam. Vitthala placed his gift
of land in charge of Parasarabhatta Singaiyangar for conducting a
Ramanujakutam at Srirangam. Vitthala’s other gifts to the Srirangam temple
are enumerated in another inscription, which gives the genealogy of
Vitthaladeva Maharaja and his conquests and achievements.7 (11 of 1936-
37) He is said to have overrun all the dominious in the peninsula south of
Vijayanagara with the help of his brother Chinna Timma. He made a number
of benefactions to the temple such as providing for the daily sahasranama
puja and the anointment of the divine image with karpurataila every Friday.
He also endowed a few villages for the provision of offerings to the god. An
elder brother of his by name Nalla Timma is stated to have made a
Candraprabha-vahana in silver for the god while Ahobala Dikshita of
Krishnapuram made a present of a Suryaprabha in gold. Vitthala is said to
have planted pillars of victory at Anantasayanam, Kanyakumari and

The next inscription dated 1549 registers a gift of the village called
Cintamani to Srisailapurnacarya Tatacarya alias Auvukku Tiruvenkataiyanagar
by Ramaraj, for worship and offerings to the god in the manner in which
they were conducted in the time of Nalantigal Narayana Jiyar (i.e.,
Kuranarayana Jiyar) for the merit of himself and the king. This inscription
also refers to the erosion of the river Kaveri into Srirangam and also refers
to the erosion of the river Kaveri into Srirangam and its diversion near
Cintamani, in the time of a Cola king and the compensation in land in the
village Kolakkattai granted to the brahmanas of Cintamani. It may be pointed
out, here, that Kuranarayana Jiyar is said to have saved the Srirangam
temple from the floods of the Kaveri by effecting a diversion near
Cintamani, a village near Thiruchirapalli.8 (KO.p.118) The next inscription,
dated 1551, registers a gift of the income of the village Uttamasolanallur in
Manappidinadu, a sub-division of Tirucirappalli-asavadi, for offerings to the
god Sriranganatha, by Narapparaja, son of Mahamandalesvara Nandyala
Narasingaraja.9 (66 of 1936-37; pt.II, page 85) This inscription also
refers to a previous gift of a portion of the income from the same village
for a feeding house conducted by Siru-Tirumalaiyangar, son of Talappakkam
Periya Tirumalaiyangar at Srirangam. Narapparaja was the grandson of
Singarayya, the first member of the Nandyala family, ruling over Nandyal in
the Kurnool district. The donee was one of Talapakkam poets, who composed
many panegyries in Sanskrit and Telugu on the god Sri Venkatesa of
Tirupati.10 (T.T.D.Epigraphical Report, pp.284-85) The next inscription
dated 1553 registers the gift of the village Matteri in Kuruttadalaisirmai by
Krishnamman, wife of Peria Timma, son of Ramaraja Timmaraja of Arvidu,
for offerings to the god Ranganatha and for feeding Srivaisnavas in the
Kandai Annan Ramanujakutam at Srirangam.11 (93 of 1937-38) Another
inscription of the same year registers a gift of lands, after purchase, by a
certain Singa-Gangaya, son of Nagu-setty of the Nedunkumara gotra, for
offerings on Fridays.12 (58 of 1936-37) Still another record of the same
year registers the gift of the villages Pasaru in Vallanadu, a sub-division of
Tirupparuttisirmai, and Sembiyankalar, by Ramaraja, a son of Ramaraja of
Jagaraja Aravidu, for conducting festivals in the temple in the month of
Vaikasi.13 (94 of 1937-38)

The next inscription is dated in 1562.14 (60 of 1936-37) This

records the gift of the village Adippuliyur in Ogaimaganai, a sub-division of
Ayppadisirmai belonging to Tanjavur-usavadi in Solamandalam for offerings to
the god Sriranganatha by Rayasam Venkata, son of Gundamaraja
Timmapparaja, of the Aruvelu community. The last in this series, dated
1565, registers and endowment in money made by a certain Perumal Jiyar on
behalf of Alagiyamanavala Jiyar, the occupant of the seat of
Sriranganarayana Jiyar.15 (57 of 1936-37) With the interest on the
endowment offerings were to be made to the god Sriranganatha on the
occasion of the sacred bath of the deity in the Kaveri on the Panguni-
uttiram day of the Adibrahmotsava.

The members of the Aravidu dynasty, many of whom figure in the

Srirangam records of Sadasivaraya, were the descendants of Araviti Bukka,
one of the famous officers of Saluva Narasimha. His grandson, Tirumala,
was the first king of the fourth dynasty of Vijayanagar. After the battle
of Raksasi-tangidi (1565) Tirumala could not maintain himself at Vijayanagar
and hence transferred his capital to Ghanagiri or Penukonda (1567).


The great Vaisnava temple of Srirangam was the loadstar of

devotional singers in this period as well as in the days of the Alvars.
Purandaradasa (1484-1564), who has been regarded as the grandfather of
Karnatak music and the father of the dasa kuta movement, visited
Srirangam in the course of his bardic travels and composed several padas or
songs of devotion in Kannada on Ranganatha.

Acyutappa Nayaka of Tanjore (1530-1614) and the Srirangam Temple

The Nayaka rule over Tanjore is reckoned from the viceroyalty of
Sevappa Nayaka, who carried on a peaceful and beneficient administration
between the years 1532 and 1580. He was succeeded by his son Acyutappa
Nayaka (1580-1614). Unlike the Nayaks of Madurai and Gingee Acyutappa
of Tanjore maintained a single-minded loyalty to the Raya of Vijayanagar
(Penukonda), Venkata I (1585-1614). Contemporary literature and a few
inscriptions bear witness to the deep devotion of this chief to the god of
Srirangam. Even as a prince he made gifts to the temple of Ranganatha. An
inscription on the west wall of the pagalapattu mantapa, dated in S.1489
(A.D.1567), refers to this chief as the son of Cinna Cevva and records the
provision made by him, by an endowment of money, for lamps and offerings in
the temple.16 (104 of 1938-39) It also describes the ten avataras of
Visnu. There are two inscriptions outside Srirangam, which testify to the
Nayaka’s devotion to the temple. One from Melur (Thiruchirapalli Taluk)
registers the gift of a garden to the Srirangam temple.17 (410 of 1924)
Another inscription from Tiruvaiyaru (Tanjore district) eulogises this king and
states that he made several gifts to the temple of Rangesa at Srirangam.18
(426 of 1924) He is said to have paid annual visits to Srirangam and

Contemporary literary sources throw considerable light on the deeply

religious character of Acyutappa Nayak. He was a broad-minded religious
benefactor and among the recepients of his gifts were many Vaisnava and
Saiva temples and the Madhva teacher Vijayindra-tirtha, but the Srirangam
temple was his favourite. Govinda Diksita in his Sangita Suhda yagnanarayana
Diksita in his Sahityu Ratnakara, and Ramabhadramba in her
Raghunathabhyudayam, have described Acyuta’s benefactions to the
Srirangam temple in glowing terms. He is said to have constructed the golden
vimana over the sanctum of the Srirangam temple.19 (S.K.Aiyangar: Sources
of Vijayanagar History, p.285) This may only mean that he covered the
Sriranga vimana afresh with gold plates. He is also said to have presented
to the god, Sriranganatha, a gold crown embedded with gems, a jewelled
armour and a golden throne. A few gopuras in the east, west and the north
of the temple, a few of the outermost prakara walls, some pleasure gardens
and several mantapas are also credited to him.20 (Ibid., p.255)

The Sahityaratnakara, the Raghunathabhyudayam and the letters of

the Jesuit Fathers Pimenta, Auquetil du Perron and Coutinho aver that
Acyutappa addicated the throne in favour of his son Raghunatha about 1600
and retired to Srirangam. Fathers Pimenta and du Jarric say that Ayutappa
retired to Srirangam “accompanied in that devotion by his seventy wives, all
of which were to be burned in the same fire with his Carkasee”. Father
Coutinho, writing from Candragiri under dated 17th July, 1600 says: This
(Acyutappa died lately. His corpse, along with 370 wives still alive, was
burnt in big fire of sandalwood.” The Raghunathabhyudayam and the
Sahityaratnakara, however, do not speak of Acyutappa’s death immediately
after his retirement to Srirangam, but actually suggest that he lived a long
time after his abdication. The latter work says that Acyutappa retired,
after his abdication, to Srirangam, where he spent the rest of his days in
the company of pandits.21 (For arguments against the evidence of the
Portuguese Fathers see Vridhagirisan: The Nayaks of Tanjore, pp.57-61)
Curiously enough the Koil-Olugu has nothing to say about Acyutappa’s

Inscriptions of the Period of Sriranga I (1572-1585) and Venkata II


There are a few inscriptions in the Srirangam temple spread over the
period 1572-1612 covering these two reigns. The reign of Sriranga I was
not effective owing to internal discords. It is significant that his name does
not occur in the inscriptions in the temple belonging to his reign while Venkata
II or Venkatapatideva Maharaya, the last great ruler of Vijayanagar, is
mentioned in a few records. The names of the Nayak viceroys are also
mentioned. The earliest of these is dated 1574.22 (103 of 1938-39) It
records the gift of a village in Venpattu-sirmai by Ravasam Tirumalaiyan, son
of Timmappar of the Gautama gotra, to Sriranganatha for food offerings.
The next dated 1583 records an endowment of money entrusted to Tirumalai
Tiruvengada-Tattaiyangar Tirumalaiyangar by Jagadapirayar, son of Annama
Nayaka for feeding Srivaisnava in the Ramanujakutam in Srirangam.23 (91 of
1936-37) The next, dated 1590, registers a similar endowment of 70
varahan entrusted to the same person by Krisnappa Nayaka, son of
Adattaraya of the Visnuvardhana gotra, for feeding eight Vaisnavas daily in
the temple.24 (90 of 1936-37) Another inscription dated in the same year
mentions Venkatapatideva Maharaya as king.25 (79 of 1936-37) It records
an endowment in money by a certain Cenna-raja, son of Tirumalaiyan of
Pattikondai, for offerings during the monthly festival in the shrine of
Paramapadanathan. The next inscription dated 1592 registers a gift of land
by purchase in Kilai Perungavur, alias Lakkanadanayakapuram, in the eastern
portion of Malainadu in Rajaraja valanadu on the northern bank of the Kaveri
in tiruccirappali-savadi by Nadiminti Kondu-setty, Mulangi Timmu-setti and
others for the service of the chanting of the Iyarpa in the temple (during
the Adyayanotsava).26 (35 of 1938-39) The next record is dated 1594 and
mentions Venkata II as the reigning king.27 (97 of 1936-37) It records
sale of house-sites by two brahmanas of the temple to the Nayaka of
Tanjore, Acyutappa, son of Sevappa, for establishing a Ramanujakutam. The
next dated 1597 registers gift of land by purchase by Peddana Nayaka
Kasturi Rangappa Nayaka of Thiruchirapalli for providing offerings and
worship to the god of Srirangam during the Citrapaurnami festival.28 (99 of
1938-39) The donor was probably a kinsman of the contemporary Nayak of
Madurai, Krishnappa Nayak II (1595-1601).29 (The Koil-Olugu gives a list
of Nayaka rulers and one of the early Nayaks, according to this list, is
Kasturi Rangappa. He is said to have ruled for seven days only)

The next inscription is dated 1608. It registers gift of money by

Ekangi Bhattar Tiruvengadaiyan, the disciple of Vedavyasa Bhattarayyangar
Kovilappayar, for providing offerings to the god on the day of his guru’s
asterism Cittirai.30 (49 of 1938-39) The next inscription mentions Venkata
II and is dated 1611.31 (16 of 1936-37) It registers gift of money by one
Paramesvaran, son of Manga-setti, a merchant of Srirangam for offerings to
the god Sriranganatha, while halting at the Vitthalarajan mantapa in the
Saluvanayakkan toppu when taken in procession to Uraiyur on the 5th and
6th days of the Brahmotsava. The last of the series is dated 1612.32 (8
of 1938-39; pt.II, para 56) It registers a gift of money by Ramanuja
Jiyar of the lineage of Yatindrapranavaprabhava pillai Lokacarya Jiyar for
offerings to the god during the Tiruadyayanam festival in the month of
Cittirai in honour of Emberumanar (Udaiyavar). The prefatory portion of the
record refers to Udaiyavar or Ramanuja in glowing terms. He is called a
rajahamsa at the lotus feet of Srirangaraja, a bee at the feet of
Parankusa, one born to save the whole world, one who improved the wealth
of the (Srirangam) temple (by reforming its administration) and as one who
was thrilled by the very mention of the name Ponnarangam.


(1564-72) AND KRISHNAPPA NAYAK II (1595-1601)

The Koil-Olugu says that Krisnappa Nayak I offered to Sriranganatha

a large number of jewels and conducted with the help and guidance of Kumara
Narasimha Vaduladesika many festivities for the god. He is also said to have
constructed a bathing ghat with steps and a mantapam on the banks of the
southern Kaveri (meaning probably the Amma Mantapam of the present day).
Kumara Krisna or Krisnappa Nayak II, the grandson of Krisnappa Nayak I,
is a said to have offered to the god of Srirangam a diamond shirt, a diamond
crown, etc., worth a lakh and fifty thousand gold pieces.33 (KO., pp.174-
75) From inscriptions it is known that the early Nayaks extended their
patronage equally to the Saiva temple at Jambukesvaram.34 (138 of 1936-
37 and 1 and 2 of 1938-39, pt.II of 1938-39, paras 74 and 75)



The death of Venkata II in 1614 was the prelude to a bloody war of

succession at the imperial capital, viz., Vellore, which in its turn was known
as Vijayanagar. This civil was threw the Tamil Country into much confusion
and offered a good chance to the restless feudatories to assume
independence. Authentic accounts of the civil war are given in the works
Ramarajiyamu, Raghunathabhyudayam and Sahityaratnakara. These are
confirmed by the accounts of foreigners like Barradas and Queyroz. Venkata
II died without a son to succeed him but before his death he nominated his
nephew Sriranga as heir apparent. When Sriranga II ascended the throne
he was opposed by Jagaraya, the father of Bayama, one of the queens of
Venkata II, who put forward the claims of a pretender, a putative son of
his sister. The loyalist party was headed by one Yacama Nayak, the
ancestor of the Rajas of Venkatagiri. Jagaraya succeeded in capturing the
king and his family and putting them to the sword. Out of this slaughter
Rama, a son of Sriranga II, alone escaped through the efforts of a loyal
washerman. Yacama Nayak took the prince under his benign protection and
declared a relentless war upon the rebel Jagaraya. According to all accounts
the Nayaks of Madurai and Cenji (Gingee) joined forces with Jagaraya while
the Nayak of Tanjore threw his lot with Yacama. The Sahityaratnakara tells
us that when Acyutappa Nayak of Tanjore and his son Raghunatha were
informed by a messenger of the rapid turn of events at the imperial capital
Yacama Nayak was already marching south to seek their help while Jagaraya
was also proceeding in the same direction to join forces with his allies at
Srirangam as already arranged between them.35 (S.K.Aiyangar: Sources,
p.273) The jungles in the region of Srirangam and Thiruchirapalli had been
chosen as the rendezvous and there Jagaraya was tarrying with his troops
eagerly waiting for the troops from Madurai and Cenjei. According to
Baradas both Yacama Nayak and Jagaraya had reached the environs of
Thiruchirapalli and were making preparations for a final trial of strength.
Under the date 12th December 1616 he writes. “Indeed there are now
assembled in the field in the large open plains of Trinchenapali not only the
hundred thousand men that each party has, but as many as a million of
soldeirs”.36 (R.Sewell, A forgotten Empire, p.230 (National Book Trust) )
The Nayak of Madurai of the time was muttu Virappa I (1609-1623).
Guided by the twin objects of gaining complete independence and waging a war
on the neighbouring Nayakship of Tanjore he had thrown his lot with
Jagaraya. Leon Besse in his La Mission due Madure says: “…. The Nayak of
Madura removed his court and army to Trichinopoly in A.D.1616 with the
object of making war with the king of Tanjore.37 (Sathianathier: The
Nayaks of Madura, p.103, n.16.) It is clear that the transfer of the
capital from Madurai to Thiruchirapalli, with its rock and fortifications, was
effected for strategic purposes. With the object of preventing the junction
of Yacama Nayak and the fugitive prince with the Nayak of Tanjore the
Grand Anicut across the Kaveri, eight miles east of Tiruccirapalli, was blown
up. However in the battle fought at Tohur or Toppur, two miles from the
Grand Anicut on the southern bank of the Kaveri in 1617 the loyallists under
Yacama Nayak won a decisive victory. It was a triumph for the rightful heir
to the throne of Vijayanagar and the policy of Raghunatha Nayak of
Tanjore. This did not affect the position of Muttu Virappa Nayak in any
way. Till about the year 1640 Tiruccirapalli continued and the headquarters
of the Nayak of Madurai.

At this juncture the Koil-Olugu sketches, in detail a dispute at

Srirangam, between a certain Uttamanambi (whose full name is not
mentioned) and Bhattar Tirumalacaryar (who was probably in charge of the
temple worship) over the possession of a Garuda seal, which carried with it a
title to hereditary rights to certain lands belonging to the temple.38 (KO.,
pp.175-177; 182-3) Uttamanambi, we are told, carried the case to Muttu
Virappa Nayak, made his accusations against Tirumalacaryar and had the
currency of his Garuda seal in the temple stopped. Subsequently when
Jagaraya came with his armies to Thiruchirapalli Muttu Virappa, who
probably knew that a battle was imminent in the neighbourhood, asked
Tirumalacaryar to lodge all the moveable property of the Srirangam temple,
i.e., the jewels, etc., in his fortress at Thiruchirapalli for safety. Bhattar
Tirumalacaryar refused to effect the transfer on the plea that the
“property of Arangar (Sriranganatha) will not cross the river (Kaveri)”.
Declaring that he would defend the temple if the occasion arose he gathered
together an army of tridandin-sanyasis and Srivaisnavas bearing the
Ramanujan sword-about 4,000 in number and assigned each devotee to one
house in Srirangam. They were to shout Srimad Rangam Mahattama (the
shrine of Srirangam is great and magnificent). “The Raya (Yacama with the
prince Rama) came to know of this when his army reached Togur and under
his orders Raghunatha Nayak (of Tanjore), along with his adaippikkaran
(personal servant carrying the betal pouch), entered the temple and
worshipped the god. Tirumalacaryar said to him, ‘As you have won so many
worshipped the god. Tirumalacaryar said to him, ‘As you have won so many
victories I will make Srirangam too yours,’ and pleased him with such
strategic words. Raghunatha Nayak returned with delight.” These words
uttered probably with the autonomy and safety of the temple town of
Srirangam in his mind were seized upon by his tenemy, Uttamanambi, who is
said to have sent to Muttu Virappa Nayak an epistle purporting to have been
written by the Bhattar to the Raya (i.e., the loyallist party of Yacama)
offering to surrender the temple. The Nayak was also invited to the temple
to know for himself the truth. Pranadartihara Vaduladesikar alias Annangar,
the accarya of the Nayak, was persuaded to depose against Tirumalacaryar
much against his will, as otherwise Uttamanambi had protested that he could
die along with his kith and kin by taking poison. Convinced that
Tirumalacaryar would have over the Srirangam temple with all its property
to his enemy, Raghunatha Nayak of Tanjore, Muttu Virappa Nayak effected
the capture of Tirumalacaryar near the gateway of the temple with the help
of Uttamanambi and Gaddival Nayakkan, a disciple of Tirumalacaryar. The
captive was imprisoned in the Tiruccirappali fort for about six months. The
persecution of the Bhattar at the instigation of Uttamanambi was complete
when the former’s house at Srirangam was plundered, his followers captured
and his matha transferred to Srirangam Tatacaryar. The family of the
Bhattar took refuse in Turaiyur. The Reddy of Turaiyur, we are told, had
Bhattar Tirumalacaryar released on payment of a ransom of 20,000 gold
pieces and maintained him in his town for seven years. Calculating from the
date of the battle of Toppur, i.e., 1617 this brings us to the date 1623,
which is also the last regnal year of Muttu Virappa. Bhattar, it is said, got
back his rights from Tirumalai Souri (Tirumala Nayak), the successor of
Muttu Virappa.

The Koil-Olugu’s references to the coming of the Raya (Yacama and

prince Rama) to Thiruchirapalli, the mention of Raghunatha Nayak as a
partisan of Yacama Nayak and the reference to the camp at Toghur are
accurate and valuable to a student of South Indian History. Of particular
importance to the history of the Srirangam temple is the implied fact that
the Nayak of Madurai and Thiruchirapalli, viz., Muttu Virappa Nayak, was
anxious to save it from falling into the hands of his enemy, the Tanjore
Nayak, Ragunatha, but Bhattar Tirumalacaryar wanted to steer clear of the
two hostile princes and remain neutral. In this policy he succeeded but at a
terrible cost, thanks to the machinations of his foe Uttamanambi. This is
clear case of mutually jealous wardens or officers of the temple pursuing
their quarrel to a bitter and taking advantage of a critical political

Tirumala Nayak (1623-1659), the best known Nayak ruler of

Madurai, was the younger brother and successor of Muttu Virappa. He
transferred the capital back from Thiruchirapalli to Madurai. The
Mriyunjaya manuscripts and other chronicles place this event immediately
after the accession of Tirumala, i.e, about 1623-24. The Nayak, it is said,
was attacked by violent catarrh while he was proceeding from Thiruchirapalli
to Madurai for his coronation and that both the Vaisnava and Saiva gods on
the island of Srirangam were not able to heal it. At Dindigul Cokkanatha and
Minaksi, the god and goddess of Madurai, appeared before him in a vision
and promised to cure the illness on condition that the Nayak gave up
Tiruciprappalli and made Madurai his capital, as of old. Accordingly Tirumala
made Madurai his permanent residence and rendered in may ways the city
and its temple beautiful.39 (IA. XLV. P.150) From the Jesuit letters, which
are certainly more reliable, however, it is learnt that the transfer was
brought about not immediately after the accession of the Nayak to the
throne but some time after 1640. Two letters dated 1624 and 1640 refer
to the Nayak residing in Thiruchirapalli while another dated 1644 mentions
the Nayak residing in Madurai implying that the transfer was effected
sometime between 1640 and 1644.40 (The Nayak of Madura, op.cit.,
pp.113-15) It is needless to investigate the exact cause or cause of the
transfer. It was brought about probably because Madurai was a more
central as also the historic capital of the Pandyan kingdom.

The Olugu’s account of the visit of Kodikannikadanam Tatacarya to the

Srirangam Temple

The Koil-Olugu carries an interesting account of a Nayak king called

Muttu Virappa, who could not persuade the Stalattar of the Srirangam
temple to accord a fitting reception to Kodikkannikadanam Tatacarya, when
he visited the Srirangam temple as an emissary of the Raya of Vijayanagar.
It also gives the date S.1507 or A.D.1585 or thereabouts for the visit.41
(KO., p.183.) This date does not fall within the reign of either Muttu
Virappa I (1609-1623) or Muttu Virappa II, whose reign was confined to
the year 1659. The Nayak in question may be identified with Tirumala
Nayak for Kodikkannikadanam Tatacarya is said to have visited Srirangam
after visiting Tirupati with the intention of gold-plating the vimana42 (Ibid.)
and, from independent sources, his visit to Tirupati is placed in 1630, as
explained below. The sequence of events followed by the Olugu too points to
the same conclusion, for the incident mentioned below follows the narration of
the dispute between Uttamanambi and Tirumalacaryar said to have taken
place during the reign of Muttu Virappa.

The Olugu’s account is this.43 (Ibid., pp.183-186) Ettur Tirumalai

Tatacarya, better known as Kumara Tatacarya and Kodikannikadanam
Tatacarya proceeded to Srirangam, after visiting Tirupati, with a letter
from the Raya, most probably Venkata III (1630-1642), and with gold
plates intended for the vimana of the temple. This Vaisnava Acarya was the
well known preceptor of Venkata II (1585-1614) and his successors. From
inscriptions in Kancipuram and Tirupati it is known that he was learned in the
Vedas, was a native of Kanci, where he lived in royal splendour and that his
activities ranged between the years 1575 and 1630.44 (T.T.D.Epigraphical
Report, pp.310-314) He came to Phanipatigiri (Tirupati) in Pramoduta,
corresponding to 1630 and repaired and regilt the punyakoti or anandanilaya
vimana of the Venkatesvara shrine. He had earlier gilded the vimanas of God
Varadaraja and Goddess Laksmi of Kanci. Before he arrived in Srirangam the
Nayak received a letter from the Raya through an emissary, which said that
he should meet Tatacaryar along with the Stalattar of the temple, take his
family in a palanquin upto the Aryabhattal gateway and act according to his
wishes. The Nayak, i.e., Tirumala Nayak (who was in Thiruchirapalli upto
1640, as shown above) came to Srirangam and told Bhattar (Tirumalacaryar,
who owed his restoration to him) of the Raya’s epistle. Bhattar, the chief
priest, is said to have referred the Nayak to Annangar, the treasurer. As
already pointed out the relations between the Stalattar, i.e, the chief
officers of the temple, viz., the chief priest (Bhattar), the treasurer
(Annangar, who was also the preceptor or Acarya of the Nayak) and
Uttamanambi, the manager, were strained by jealously and quarrels of a
personal nature. This evil was only a reflection of the unsettled political
conditions of the day on the working of autonomous institutions, wealthy and
assured of a steady income like the Srirangam temple. Another factor of
importance needs to be highlighted here, and that is Tatachar was a
Vadakalai, while the Stalattar were Tenkalais. Hence when the Nayak
requested Annangar to meet Tatacaryar and welcome his the latter refused
to do any such thing. “When the Nayak requested him to do it for his sake,
Annangar roundly declared that he did not need his favour for anything, and
announced that if the Nayak rendered any honour to Tatacaryar within the
temple many Jiyars and Srivaisnavas would be sacrificing their lives. The
Nayak, quite petrified, reported the situation to Tatacaryar, who said in
great rate. ‘the Tenkalaiyar of Perumal Koil (i.e., Kancipuram) created the
same hindrances, but I was able to subdue them. You are a good-for-
nothing’. Tatacarya, in effect received no honour. His family actually got out
nothing’. Tatacarya, in effect received no honour. His family actually got out
of their palanquin outside the northern gateway of the Nacciyar shrine and
only then could they worship the perumal. Hence he turned back with the
gold plates, which he assigned to the vimana of Alagar-koil, and proceeded
to the north.” When the Raya came to known of this he is stated to have
sent two persons, Krisnarayar and Vittalarayar to inquire into the matter
and punish the Nayak, if necessary. Finding that “both the Stalattar and
the Nayak were not at fault” they sent a conciliatory reply to the Raya.
The Nayak is said to have sent to the Raya an effigy of his head in gold and
some money as tribute. He developed a hatred towards and Srirangam
temple and its Stalattar. The chronicle concludes by saying that he
disregarded his own Vaisnava Acarya, Pranadartihava Vaduladesikar
(Annangar) and sought the discipleship of the Saivite Ayyagalayyan of
Jambukesvaram, from whom he received pancaksara upadesam.45 (This
Saivaite saint figures in an inscription of modern characters at
Jambukesvaram) One other reason is also provided by the Olugu to explain
the Nayak’s hatred of his Acarya. We are told that once when the Nayak
visited the Srirangam temple Annangar arranged a feast in which he
displayed numerous silver and gold vessels which were, as the chronicler
explains “all of them, excepting those supplied to Nayak really lead and
brass vessels coated with silver and gold respectively at a cost of 100 pons.
The Nayak wondered how, while in his palace there were but a few silver
and gold vessels Annangar could command so many of them, and doubted
whether his ancestors could have squandered away all the palace property in
this sort of benefaction.” On another occasion, when a son was born to the
Nayak, we are told, Annangar presented to him a gold cradle, worth 2,000
pons.45a (KO., pp.179-181; 112 of 1936-37) These incidents enraged the
Nayak, who perhaps suspected the honesty of his guru. His attempts to
check the temple property were are no avail.

To attempt a verification of the above account a knowledge of the

political background of the day is necessary. Though the loyallists won the
civil war of 1614-17 the prince, for whom they fought (viz. Sriranga II)
was murdered within four months of his accession and his son Rama (Rama
IV) was made king with Yacama as regent. By this time both Penukonda and
Candragiri had been lost to the Muslims and Vellore alone remained for the
empire, each being called Vijayanagar, in its turn. Rama ruled as a nominal
king from Vellore from 1617 to 1630. He was followed by Venkata III
(1630-1642). He was troubled by the treacherous and rebellious schemes of
his ambitious nephew Sriranga (III). He was the contemporary of Tirumala
Nayak, whose allegiance to the Vijayanagar suzerein was only in form.
Sriranga appealed to Bijapur for help and this brought about two Muslim
Sriranga appealed to Bijapur for help and this brought about two Muslim
invasions, in 1638 and 1641. On the latter occasion Vellore was threatened.
Thus conditions were quite opportune for the assumption of complete
independence by the Nayak governors. Tirumala Nayak did not lose this
opportunity and his wars with his neighbours amply bear this out. But, for
theoretical purposes he was not averse to acknowledging the overlordship of
the Raya. His active hostility against his suzerein started only when Sriranga
III led a precipitate expedition against him with a view to punish him for
failing to assist him in restoring his hegemony. At this time the Nayak had
withdrawn to Madurai. Failing in his attempt at forming an alliance with the
Nayak of Tanjore who remained loyal, he induced the sultan of Golkonda to
attack Vellore.46 (Sathyanathier, Nayakas of Madura, pp.126-27) Hence it
is not unlikely that Tirumala Nayak sent an effigy of his head to Venkata
III in 1640 or sometime earlier as a kind of atonement for the disregard
shown to his guru (Tatacarya) by his own guru (Annangar) at Srirangam and
that he renounced his discipleship of the latter and became a disciple of a
Saivite teacher of Jambukesvaram though the veracity of these statements
cannot be vouchsafed. It is also not unlikely that after his conversion he
turned hostile to the Vaisnava shrine in general as described in the Olugu.
The statement of the chronicler that “he was at the same time learning the
sudarsana mantra as the student of an arcaka at Srirangam” was written
perhaps in an effort to save face. In any case Tirumala Nayak began to
concentrate his attention after he shifted his capital to Madurai on the
renovation of the Minaksi temple and perhaps had no opportunity to turn his
attention again to Srirangam.

Inscriptions belonging to the period of Rama IV, Venkata III and Sriranga

There are a few inscriptions in the Srirangam temple falling in the

reigns of these kings (1617-1672). The smallness of their number is
obviously due to the unsettled political conditions of the day. The absence of
any inscription mentioning Tirumala Nayak may also be noted. The donors are
mostly private persons. An inscription dated in S.1542 (A.D.1620) registers
gift of money by Nallappillai on of Kandiyur Irulappar, for providing offerings
to the god on the third day of the Masi festival, when the god was taken to
the Ellaikkarai-mantapa constructed by him on the southern bank of the
northern Kaveri (i.e., the Coleroon) 47 (67 of 1938-39; The Ellaikkaai
mantapa is situated near the Coleroon bridge) An inscription dated 1634
registers gift of land by Nagaraja, son of Acyutayyaraja of the Gautama
gotra, the tanapati of Ram devarayar for providing offerings to the god
while he halted in the mantapa on the bank of the Candrapuskarani, during
the festival instituted by Krisnappa Nayaka.48 (45 of 1938-39) An
inscription dated 1650 registers a polivuttu gift by Ceruka Cennama
Nayakkan, son of Vengalappa Nayakkan, for specified offerings to the god
on the occasion of the god’s visit to the mantapa in the grove, which was
also given by the donor to the deity.49 (171 of 1951-52) An inscription
dated 1655 records a gift (of money) by Vasantarayan for conducting the
6th day festival for the god Ranganatha, when the deity would be seated in
the pavilion at Muttarasanallur, near Srirangam.50 (176 of 1951-52.
Muttarasanallur is about 6 miles from Srirangam and today the deity is not
taken to that place on the 6th day of any festival. According to the
inscription it was taken on the “6th day festival” to a mantapa in that place)
Lastly an epigraph dated 1661 registers a gift of money as poliyuttu to the
temple treasury by a private person, potturaja Venganan, son of Tirumalai
Nayakkar of Nandakula gotra for the 6th day festival of Adibrahmotsava
and for other specified provisions for the god.51 (175 of 1951-52)

The Activities of the Christian Missionaries

The celebrated Roman Catholic missionary, Robert de Nobili, made

Madurai the centre of his activities in 1606. In spite of his calling himself a
Roman brahmin and his novel methods aimed at bringing about a change of
heart among the natives from within he had to face opposition from the
rulers and the orthodox Hindus. He quitted Madurai in 1623 and came to
Thiruchirapalli in 1627 after staying for brief periods in Satyamangalam and
Salame. In the latter year he organised a mission in Tiruccirappali.52
(Sathyanathier. The Nayaks of Madura, pp.261-71) Here too he had to
face opposition and persecution. In 1638-39 all the missionaries in
Thiruchirapalli were arrested and imprisoned, De Nobili sought, in 1644, an
interview with Tirumala Nayak and obtained from him a promise of immunity
from the prosecuting activities of his subordinate governors. In pursuance of
his promise the Nayak issued orders to the local governors not to interfere
with the missionaries and their work. The order, however, was disobeyed
here and there.

The two fathers of Thiruchirapalli who distinguished themselves during

this period were Balthazar de Costa and Alvarez. They worked mainly among
the lower strata of Hindu society like the Pariahs. When a terrible famine
swept over this town in 1646-47 Alvarez stationed himself amid the
depressed classes and mitigated their sufferings by giving treatment to
patients coming from the neighbourhood of Thiruchirapalli. Such acts of
humanity attracted men of high rank, many of whom joined the creed of
Alvarez and gave material aid to him. With the funds thus acquired Alvarez
built two churches for the high castes, one in Thiruchirapalli and the other in
the vicinity of Srirangam. The erection of the latter brought retribution to
Alvarez immediately. There was a great uproar among the Hindus. Some
soldiers captured Alvarez and took him before the governor of
Thiruchirapalli, who imprisoned him and his followers. A heavy ranson was
claimed for his release, which could not be paid as the missionaries were
poor and destitute. The governor became indignant and expelled Alvarez out
of Thiruchirapalli. De Costa, who was then working in Tanjore, proceeded to
Madurai and sought the intervention of the Nayak, under whose orders
Alvarez regained his position in Thiruchirapalli.53 (IA. XLVI, pp.261-71)


Capital transferred back to Thiruchirapalli in 1665

Tirumala Nayak was succeeded by Muttu Virappa II, who ruled only
for a few months in 1659. The next ruler of Madurai was Cokkanatha. His
reign of more than twenty years was marked by wars and internal
disturbances, which were often accompanied by famine and pestilence. The
Jesuit missionaries, in their letters written from Thiruchirapalli, Madurai and
other places, give lurid accounts of the disturbances and the consequent
misery spread throughout the countryside.54 (The Nayaks of Madura,
op.cit., pp.274-76, 284-85, etc.) The phantom of the Vijayanagar empire
had disappeared. The feud between the Nayaks of Madurai and Tanjore
continued. The Sultans of Bijapur and Golconda were sending their armies
southward in the wake of the disappearance of the Hindu imperial power.
The Muslims had captured Vellore and a few places belonging to the Nayaks
of Madurai, Gingee and Tanjore. As Thiruchirapalli lay on the high road to
the south the strategic and military importance of its rock-fort as a means
of defence was quickly realised by Cokkanatha, who transferred the capital
back to Thiruchirapalli in 1665. In effecting the transfer he seems to have
displayed too much and undeserved enthusiasm. According to the evidence of
the Jesuit fathers he dismantled portions of the magnificent palace, which
Tirumala Nayak had recently erected for himself in Thiruchirapalli.55 (Ibid.,

The first years of Cokkanatha’s rule from Thiruchirapalli, appear to

have been not only peaceful but trumphant. For one thing the Jesuit letters
covering the period 1667-1672 are not to be had. The native chronicles
describe a victorious war which Cokkanatha waged (c.1673) against the
Nayak of Tanjore, Vijayaraghava, because the latter refused to give his
Nayak of Tanjore, Vijayaraghava, because the latter refused to give his
daughter in marriage to him. Tanjore was taken and his foster brother
Alagiri Nayaka was appointed governor. On the eve of surrender
Vijayaraghava blew up the royal harem and died fighting. His partisans,
however, appealed to the sultan of Bijapur on behalf of Cengamaladas, said
to be a grandson of the late king, who had escaped the calamity. The sultan
of Bijapur sent his troops under the Mahiatta general Venkoji alias Ekoji to
back Cengamaladas. These events ultimately resulted in the Mahratta
occupation of Tanjore (1675) and introduced a new factor in South Indian
politics. Sivaji, undertook his famous Carnatic expedition in 1677 and
occupied Vellore, Gingee and other places Cokkanatha was beset with serious
troubles from now on. Though the Mahrattas did not attack Thiruchirapalli
has internal foes carried on intrigues with them to gain personal advantages.
The king of Mysore added to the troubles of Cokkanatha by sending his
armies, which made large in roads into his kingdom. Due to his failures,
diplomatic and otherwise, his own nobles deposed him and enthroned his
younger brother, Muttu Alakadri, in 1678. The new king was a weakling. He
was captured and imprisoned the very next year by Rustum Khan, a Muslim
adventurer and a former cavalry officer of Cokkanatha. The Mysore army
now laid siege to Thiruchirapalli and Rustum Khan failed to make any
impression on the besiegers. The nobles of the court grew tired of Rustum
Khan’s misrule and captured and killed him in 1682 with the help of troops
supplied by the Setupati of Ramnad. Cokkanatha was now freed and restored
to his former kingship. At his instance the Mahrattas defeated and drove
the Mysoreans out of the Madurai kingdom but occupied whatever they
conqured and finally laid siege to Thiruchirapalli. Thoroughly broken down in
mind and body Cokkanatha died within a year following his restoration.

A resume of the above events was given just to show that neither
these events not their social and economic consequences can even vaguely be
interred from either the fairly numerous inscriptions of Cokkanatha in the
Srirangam temple or the account of the Koil-Olugu bearing on his building and
patronising activities. It has to be assumed that these belong to the earlier
part of his reign from Thiruchirapalli i.e., A.D.1665-1675, in other words
before the loss of Tanjore to the Mahrattas. This is confirmed by the
chronology of Cokkanatha’s inscriptions in the Srirangam temple. The latter
as well as the account in the Olugu certainly counter the impression of
failure, darkness and misery created by a reading of the Jesuit letters of
the period.

Inscriptions in the Srirangam temple belonging to the Period of Cokkanatha

From the inscriptions we know that some officers of state as well as
the king made donations to the temple. Of these the earliest is dated
1666.56 (109 of 1937-38). It records the grant of a village,
Hiranyamangalam by Visvanatha Nayakkan Cokkanatha Nayakkan to the
Srirangam temple for offerings, etc., to the god on the sixth day of the
Bhupatirayan festival, when the deity was taken to the sixteen pillared
mantapa built by Narayana, son of Srestalur Krisnaiyangar, in the garden to
the west of the Thousand pillared mantapa. The village was left in charge of
this builder. Another inscription of the same year registers a gift of money
by Muddirai Raman, son of Alagiya Singar, a satada Srivaisnava of the
Srivatsa gotra for providing offerings to the God, when H halted in the
mantapa to the north of the Tiruvali-alvan, (Cakrattalvar) shrine.56a (61 of
1938-39) The order was issued in the time of Cinnatambi Mudaliar the vasal
prathani of Cokkanatha Nayak. The next inscription dated 1669 registers a
gift of land in Umayapuram and Pirappangudi by Alagiri Nayaka, son of
Cennama Nayaka, for offerings and worship to the god on the second day of
the Bhupatirayan festival when the deity was taken to the Vitthalarajar
mantapa.57 (110 of 1937-38) The donor may be identified with Alagiri, the
foster brother of Cokkanatha. The next inscription dated in 1671 registers
gift of land in Kutapara village in Ko-nadu by Basavappa Nayudu, son of
Jangama Nayaka of the Kasyapa gotra for offerings and worship to the god
on the eighth day of a festival instituted by Cokkanatha, when He was taken
in procession to the Vasantavilasa mantapa in the Nacciyar toppu.58 (108 of
1937-38) Another inscription dated in the same year records gift of land to
the (Ranganatha) temple by Pradhani codi-Alakadri, son of Kapa-Nayaka and
grandson of Codi Alakadri Nayaka.59 (103 of 1937-38)

A copper plate inscription of Cokkanatha dated in S.1595, Pramadi

(A.d.1673), the year of his triumphant conquest of Tanjore, records his gift
to the Srirangam temple of 96 villages mentioned by name, situated on
either bank of the Kaveri. This may be regarded as a confirmatory deed
rather than a gift of new villages.59a (This inscription appears as an
Appendix to the Uttamanambivamsa prabavam published by
S.Narasimhacaryar of Srirangam, said to belong to the Uttamanambi family.
(Hoe & Co., Madras, 1912) The next two inscriptions are dated in 1674 and
refer to the construction of the Gopalakrishna shrine by a certain Chinna
Bommaya Naidu or Nayaka of Madurai.60 (102 and 104 of 1937-38, pt.II,
para 76.) One registers the gift of a village, Olaikkudi, for offerings and
worship to the image of the god, Astabhuja Gopalakrisna, consecrated in the
shrine built by him between those of Curattalvan and Vittahae vara. The
other registers a further gift of land by the same chief for offerings and
other registers a further gift of land by the same chief for offerings and
worship to god Ranganatha while halting before the shrine of Gopalakrisna.
Another inscription under the same date registers gift of a village by
Kesaviraju, son of Ganaparaju and grandson of Venkatappa of the Srivatsa
gotra for offerings and worship to the god Sriranganatha; and another village
named Manjapuru for the worship of the image of Varadaraja and for the
maintenance of a feeding house (Ramanuja kutam).61 (105 of 1938-39)

Muddu (Muthu) Alakadri or Muddulinga Nayak, the younger brother of

Cokkanatha, who was made king during 1678-79 appears as the donor in two
inscriptions in the Srirangam temple. One registers his gift of ornaments and
provisions for offerings and worship at the request of his teacher Acarya
Vadhulai Cudamani. The other, dated in 1680, records his gift of a kancuka
or vest inlaid with precious stones for God Ranganatha.62 (27 and 31 of
1938-39; p.II para 67) A Telugu copper plate record from the Raghavendra
swami matha of Nanjagud, dated in S.1602 (Siddharti), A.D.1680, says the
Muddalagadri Nayaka made a grant, on the bank of the Candrapuskarani in
Rangaksetra, of a village on the bank of the Tamraarni in Srivaikuntam Taluk
(Tinnevelly district) and a stone building to the west of the southern gopura
in the Citra street of Srirangam to the Raghupati treasury of Yogindra-
tirta-sripada-Odeyar, the son of Raghavendra-tirta Sripada-Odeyar.63
(Mysore Archaeological Report, 1917, para 138; summary in Sathyanathier,
The Nayaks of Madura, p.360; also KO., p.191) An inscription dated in the
same year (1680) registers a gift of land, by purchase, by Vadhula Desikar
for offerings to God Ranganatha on several occassions, including the day on
the which He was taken in procession to Kottai-Cennama Nayakkan
mantapam.64 (1 of 1936-37) The donor was the Acarya of the Nayaks of
this period. Cennama Nayakkan, the builder of a mantapa, was perhaps the
same as the father of Alagiri Nayaka. The last day of the series is dated
1681.65 (Rangacarya, Topographical List, III.p.1571-No.492 H.) This
states that Sriranganarayana Jiyar and other sthanikas of all kottus or
groups of temple servants gave a quarters veli of land for offerings to the

It is known from an undated Telugu inscription in the Srirangam temple

that certain epigraphs relating to the endowments made by Cokkanatha
Nayaka and Mangammagaru (his queen), having been removed by some
miscreants, they were re-engraved and kept on the east side of the
Tiruvannaligai at the instance of the servants of the temple.66 (1 of 1936-
37) Obviously these have not seen the light of day for the epigraphs of
Cokkanatha examined earlier are those found on the walls of the Garuda
shrine in the third prakara of the temple.
shrine in the third prakara of the temple.

Royal patronage of Vaisnavism and the Srirangam Temple: The account in

the Olugu:

It was seen above that Tirumala Nayak was a Vaisnava to begin with
but later (c.1640) renounced the acaryaship of Pranadartihara Vaduladesikar
or Annangar of Srirangam for his refusal to welcome Tatacarya of
Kanchipuram and became a Saiva. From his seat in Madurai he began to
patronise in a significant manner its Saiva temples. Cokkanatha too, as
indicated by his name was a Saiva to begin with. His conversion to Vaisnavism
came about, according to the Olugu in the following manner. Obviously
encouraged by royal patronage an Advaittin called Vajrangi was preaching
Saivism in Srirangam. The Stalattar of the temple invited Srinivasa Desikar
to controvert his preachings. With Muttu Alakadri, Acyutappa, Krisnappa
and Vallappa, the four brothers of Cokkanatha as mediators, a debate
lasting 44 days took place between Srinivasadesikar and Vajrangi in the
garden of Paksiraja, opposite to the Garuda shrine in the Srirangam
temple.67 (Alagiri Nayaka, the foster brother of Cokkanatha, and Muttu
Alakadri, his young brother, as known to the Jesuit letters. The Olugu,
here, mentions three others besides Alakadri.) With their Saivite learning
the mediators tried to favour the Advaitin but failed in their attempt. On
inquiries they came to know that the ancestors of Srinivasa Desikar were
the spiritual preceptors of their they renounced Saivism and sought spiritual
guidance at the feet of the Vaisnava Acarya, who was no other than, the
grandson of Annangar, descended from the line of Mudaliandan.68 (K.O.,
p.188) Sometime later Cokkanatha Nayak too sought spiritual guidance at
the feet of the Vaisnava Acarya. We have seen above that an inscription
refers to Muttu Alakadri as a sisya of Acarya Vadhulai Cudamai, i.e., the
gem of the Acaryas of the Vadula gotra, to which the Kandadais belonged.69
(The genealogy of the Kandadais, the family of Mudaliandan, is given in the
Annan Tirumaligai Olugu)

Under the guidance of his Acarya Cokkanatha laid out, in Srirangam,

many streets and aagrahars. He also made a fresh endowment of fifty
villages and made over these along with the already existing forty villages to
the temple treasury (the Sribhandara) accompanied by a deed of gift, which
was referred to above. The Uttamanambi vamsaprabhavam says that these
were what remained of the temple villages after the appropriations made by
polegars and other petty chieftains and that they were left under the
management of Uttamanambi Pillai Srinivasacaryar. Srinivasa Desikar, says
the Olugu, tried his best to rehabilitate the code of regulations drawn up by
Udayavar, with regard to the temple routine, and see that they were given
Udayavar, with regard to the temple routine, and see that they were given

effect to. These regulations had either lapsed or well ill-executed

considerably ever since the Rayas of Vijayanagar assumed direct control over
the temple administration. During the regime of Bhattar (Tirumalacaryar)
and his men no attempt was made in this direction. As a descendent of
Mudaliandan Srinivasa Desikar obtained all the honours due to Andan, i.e.,
the office of Senapati durantara. “He collected together a hundred Vaisnava
preceptors and appointed them to do the services (connected with puja
etc.,) in the sanctum and from a congregation of Vedic reciters, under his
own direction. He also laid down that non-Vaisnavas need not enter the
temple.”70 (K.O., p.187-89) With the help of his royal pupil the Acarya
repaired many mantapas and prakaras and constructed a four pillared
mantapa for the performance of the evening rite (to guard the deity against
evil eyes), known as tiruvandikkappu, to the north of the Nan-mugan gopura
and endowed a few villages for a festival to be conducted therein. This
Tiruvandikkappu mantapa bears a life size Nayak image on one of its pillars
and this most probably represents Cokhanatha Nayak. The northern
counter-part of this mantapa, opposite the Nacciyar shrine, now called the
Kambar mantapam, is of the same size and style and may be attributed to
the same king.71 (This mantapa is supposed to commemorate the arangetral
approval by an academy of poets) of the Ramayana of Kambar. According to
pious tradition this work received its imprimateur in Srirangam before an
assembly of pandits, persided over by Nathamuni, the first Vaisnava Acarya
Kambar is said to have composed a centum on Nammalvar, called the
Satakopar-andadi in order to please God Ranganatha before i.e, could obtain
His approval for the Ramayana. It is also said that Mettlagiyasingar, i.e,
Narasimha on the neighbouring gopura, roared in approval of the work. The
story is told in full in Vinodarasamanjari (1927), pp.147-220; see also Sen
Tamil XXV, pp.308-9. Kamban is generally regarded as the contemporary of
Ottakkuttan, who lived in the courts of the three successive Cola kings,
Vikrama Cola, Kulottunga II and Rajaraja II (i.e. 1120-1163). Nathamuni
came at least a century and a half earlier and hence, Kamban could not have
been his contemporary. The view that Kamban was the author of the
Stakopar-andadi seems to be the origin and fertile source of their tradition;
and it has to be said that this view is not accepted on all hands. The
authorship of the andadi is a doubtful and disputed point) Of his own accord
Srinivasa Desikar is said to have offered to the god jewels worth four lacs
of pons, "“representing virtue, wealth, devotion and moksa”. He inspected
the treasury and the store house of the temple and made a list of the
various items. The voluables like the jewels, etc., were also examined and
arranged in their proper places. He also recognised the accounts of the
temple under four categories as well as the tirta and other honours due to
the Acarya Purusas. The old system of preferential honours or graduation
seems to have been given up in favour of equaity among these in the matter
of worship. More tirta honours were also created in the temple, eleven
according to the Olugu, to be distributed among the lesser dignitaries; while
going this due weightage appears to have been given to the Kandadais, i.e.,
members belong to the family of Mudaliyanda.72 (KO., p.190) The Nacciyar
shrine and the various mantapas in the outer prakaras are said to be the
benefications of Cokkanatha Nayak.73 (Ibid.)

Regarding Muttu Alakadri’s benefactions to the temple the Olugu says

that after S.1600, (in the year Siddharti (A.D.1680) he gave to the god of
Srirangam a gold suryaprabha, a golden umbrella, a diamond shirt, a golden
throne, a diamond crown, a diamond ornament for the head (turai) and
innumerable jewels and vessels. He is said to have made these benefactions
under the guidance of Kumara Srinivasa Desikar, the son of his Acarya.74
(Ibid.) The inscription referring to his gift of a kancuka or vest inlaid with
precious stones has been considered earlier.

A Case of Royal demand on the grain of the temple:

The chronicles of Srirangam, viz., the Uttamanambivamsa prabhavam

and the Koil-Olugu refer to a zealous warden of the Srirangam temple who
sacrificed his life as a protest against the royal appropriation of paddy from
the temple store during a certain famine. The former says that when a
certain Nayak was ruling the country there was a great famine all over the
land and that the Nayak came to the temple with a view to take away all
the paddy from the temple store for palace use. Uttamanambi, the manager
of the temple, refused to surrender any paddy. When the Nayak persisted
he measured out two marakkals of paddy saying ‘Tiruvarangam’ and
‘Periakoil’, and on the third occasion plunged the marakkal into his stomach
and measured out his own bowels and died a martyr in the cause of the
temple property. Thus overcome the Nayak abandoned his attempt and
retired from the temple. The Vamsaprabhavam makes the Uttamanambi
identical with Kudal-Cakravala Nambi, who figures in the inscription of
Garudavahana Bhatta dated 1492, while the Olugu identifies him with
Cakraraya, the brother of Valiyadimai-nilaiyitta Uttamanambi (1407-50).75
(KO., pp.155-56) The latter gives only a brief reference to the incident
saying that Cakraraya “measured out his own bowels to the royal servant
who came to take paddy from the store house.” As the Jesuit accounts
make a prominent mention of famines caused by the frequent wars of the
reign of Cokkanatha and as the Vamsaprabhavam refers to a Nayak it is
probable that the incident took place during his reign; but it is surprising
that the chronicles are so vague here while dealing with such a late period as
that of the Nayaks while they are more helpful elsewhere while relating
events belonging to this or even an earlier period. If the incident is to be
regarded as true, as it most likely is, - and similar instances of sacrifice of
life in protest against exactions by state officials have been noticed above,
- the cause of the confusion in date seems to be in the name itself, viz.,
Kudalsaravala Nainar, which may mean one who died by disembowelling
himself, being identified with Kudal Cakravala Nambi, or Nainar, whose date
is known from inscriptions, (14..2)76 (81 of 1936-37; pt.II, para 49; EI.
XXIV., p.90 ff.) Hence the whole story need not be summarily rejected as
a Euhemerian tale based on the misreading of Kudal (Madurai) as kudal
(bowels) by some uninformed scribe or scribes.


BENEFACTIONS (1682-1736)

Muttu Virappa III (1682-90)

Cokkanatha was succeeded by his son Ranga Krisna Muttu Virappa or

Muttu Virappa III. The Koil-Olugu refers to his persecution of the family of
his own Acarya. Misguided by one Tiruvenkatanatha Aiyan, an officer of
state, he is said to have surrounded the house of his teacher, captured his
sons and tortured them. One of his brothers was killed. The aged Srinivasa
Desikar cursed him with a vile death in six months. In three months he
contracted ulcers all over his body and erelong he died Mangammal, his
mother, was unable to bear the conduct of her son and is said to have
quitted Thiruchirapalli on the pretext of a pilgrimage to Ramesvaram.77
(KO., pp.191-192) It is not possible to verify this account of persecution.
From a Jesuit letter it is known that this Nayak died of small pox.78
(Sathiyanathier, The Nayaks of Madras, p.203) It is likely that the
chronicler was magnifying some injustice or injury done to the preceptor by
the Nayak towards the close of his reign. That he was not hostile to
Vaisnavism of the Srirangam temple is shown by an inscription, dated in
S.1613, Pramoduta, (A.D.1690) which refers to his restoration of certain
rights and privileges in the Ranganatha temple to Kumara Venkata
Varadacarya, son of Varadacarya and grandson of Acci Sriranga
Narayanacarya of the Gargya gotra.79 (106 of 1937-38; para 77, pt.II.
This record identically, extends the reign of this Nayak by one year.
Following the Mryuntajaya manuscript Sathyanathier adopted 1689 for the
Following the Mryuntajaya manuscript Sathyanathier adopted 1689 for the

death of Muttu Virappa III. This record confirms the date given in the
Maduraittalavaralaru. It mentions a certain Virapratapa Viradeva Maharaya
ruling at Ghanagiri (Penukonda) as sovereign Ghangiri had long ago ceased to
be the capital of the Rayas. Later records too dated in A.D.1706, etc.,
particularly of Vijayaranga Cokkanatha (A.D.1706-1732), mention a certain
suzerain, a Raya ruling from Ghanagiri. This is a good example of historical
anachronism. The scribe appears to have blindly copied the invocatory
portions of former inscriptions. See IA XLVI-1917, p.239, note 96) These
rights had been in the enjoyment of the family from the time of Udayavar
(Ramanuja) but had lapsed when some of his ancestors went to the north to
participate in religious disputations with the Saivas. Ranga Krisna Mutta
Virappa is said to have given to Kumara Venkata Varadacaryar a tirtadi
danadharma sasanam, a deed regulating in what order and by whom tirtam
etc. were to be received. Two inscriptions speak of the gifts of his wife to
the temple. Muddammgaru, the queen of Sriranga Krisna Mudduvirappa
Nayaka, according to these inscriptions, made a gift of a gold kirita to God
Sriranganatha in the year Prabhava (1688) and in the next year, Vibhava
(1689), she made a gift of two villages, Isanaikura and Nanakura, to
Srinivasayya, evidently Srinivasa Desikar, for maintaining a Ramanujakutam
and for worship and Sahasranamarcana of the god.80 (3 and 4 of 1936-37;
pt.II, para 66)


When Muttu Virappa III died his son Vijayaranga Cokkanatha was a
child. Hence upto 1706 his mother, Mangammal, acted as regent. During this
period all the southern powers except Gingee, under Rajaram, the second
son of Sivaji, submitted to the Mughal imperial authority at Delhi. Following
the example of the majority Mangammal paid tribute to Zulfikar Khan, the
general of Aurangzeb (1693) and maintained peace in the kingdom. The Tamil
and Telugu chronicles of Madurai and the Carnatic are full of accounts of her
generosity. She was an arch-benefactress. She gave gifts without distinction
of caste or community. A copper plate inscription of 1701 states that she
made a gift of some villages near Thiruchirapalli to a Muslim darga belonging
to Baba Natta. She spent much money in laying out roads and erecting
catrams throughout her kingdom. Two inscriptions in the Srirangam temple
mention her as ruler. One dated 1696 states that Samavedi Ramaiyangar
alias Sriranga Kalyana Ramanuja Ramaipangar, the nephew of Periya Kalyana
Ramanujasvamin, succeeded the latter in the supervision of the affairs of
the Dasavatara temple in Srirangam.81 (100 of 1936-37) The other dated
1697 records the conferment of the title Jiyar of Tirumangai Alvar Sannidhi
1697 records the conferment of the title Jiyar of Tirumangai Alvar Sannidhi

on a certain Ramaiyangar under the name Narayana Jiyar.82 (102 of 1936-

37) His duties were specified; he was to supervise the general administration
of the shrine as also the periodical renovations of its various structures.

The Koil-Olugu gives details of Mangammal’s patronage of the

Srirangam temple. As soon as she assumed power, says the Olugu, she
restored his previous status to Kumara Srinivasa Desikar, who had been
persecuted by her son, Muttu Virappa III. Kumara Srinivasa Desikar was
succeeded by his son Sundararaja Vaduladesikar as the head of the
Srikaryam of the Srirangam temple. The uncle of the latter, by name
Srirangaraja Vaduladesikar, usuerped the position of his nephew and as the
Acarya of Mangammal became famous as Dorai Rangacaryar. With the help
of the queen Rangacaryar offered to Sriranganatha a huge pearl necklace, a
pendent, decorated with diamonds, and a diamond crown. In 1691 she
performed the tulabhara ceremony and offered a huge treasure to the god.
She further offered to the deity seven kinds of jewels for seven days of
the week and many gold vessels for puja. Her preceptor is said to have
offered, of his own accord, some jewels, a pearl ear-ornament and a
palanquin for the Nacciyar.



Vijayarangam Cokkanatha was first and last a religious minded and

pious ruler. Fortunately for him there was no serious political disturbance
and there was hence no threat to his own security. He had the least care
for affairs temporal and, like Vijayaraghava of Tanjore, was always
concerned with religious tours and extravagant gifts to temples. As a result
official corruption and oppression became rampant and disruptive tendencies
began to gather momentum. His reign, in other words, was marked by the
peace of decadence. The internal dissolution ultimately ended in 1736, after
a brief reign of four years of his wife Minakshi, in the establishment of the
power of Candasaheb over Thiruchirapalli and the disappearance of the
Nayak kingdom.

Ironically enough this rule of perhaps the weakest king of

Thiruchirapalli and Madurai was the best from the standpoint of patronage
of religion and religious institutions of the day, and the Srirangam temple
was the greatest beneficiary. Local tradition regards him as the most
magnificent benefactor of the temple belonging to modern times. As testified
to by two Telugu labels engraved on two beams of the Dorai Mantapa, one in
its northern wing, i.e., in the northern side of the second prakara and
its northern wing, i.e., in the northern side of the second prakara and
another in its western wing, i.e., in the western side of the same prakara,
the Veda-parayana mantapa was built by him.83 (10 of 1936-37; pt.II,
para 68. The epigraphical report refers to the prakara as third prakara
whereas it is second according to the arrangement followed here.) It is
probable that the Adyayanotsava was held here at this time and that it was
called after Dorai Rangacaryar. A copper plate grant records his gift of
land for the conduct of a charity at Srirangam.84 (A.Rangacarya,
Topographical list, III, p.1565, No.441) The Koil-Olugu says that Srinivasa
Desikar, the son of Dorai Rangacaryar, offered to the god the following
gifts of Vijayaranga Cokkanatha: pancapatra and plates, one pot-like vessel,
one tirtam container, an ornamental seat and various other paraphernalia of
worship, all in gold, and many jewels, a crown and diamond and gold shirts for
the Perumal and the Ubhaya Naccimar (i.e., the utsavaberas). He is said to
have constructed the Kannadiyarai (room of mirrors) and laid the procession
path beginning from the pavitra mantapa, i.e., the pavement of the western
wing of the second prakara, including the pillared corridor. With the
intention of making a permanent endowment in his name he is said to have
offered to the temple, with the permission of the Stalattar, eight
courtesans, who had practised dancing in his natakasala for services in the
presence of Ranganatha. He is also said to have made an endowment of
10,000 gold pieces for a kudamural of 15 days of the nine devadasis who
were the hereditary servants of the temple.85 (Kudamurai refers to the
right of a devadasi to carry pots of water in the divine presence) For both
the groups the Nayak assigned the west street and created a number of
rights, honours and services in the temple. Among other benefactions of the
Nayak are mentioned many gold pots and silver pots, 360 pitambaras for the
kaisika dvadasi day and a 1,000 copper pots for the periya tirumanjanam
(Sahasrakalasabhisekam). It is also suggested that he stayed in the
Srirangam temple, probably at intervals, and supervised the conduct of the
daily fortnightly festivals and supplies therefor as well as the construction
of the mantapas, etc.86 (KO., pp.1945, The year Sarvajit mentioned in
p.194 corresponds to S.1630 and not S.1619) The Durga Temple at
Samayapuram (Kannanur) is attributed to him by local tradition.

Vijayaranga Cokkanatha was a scholar in Telugu. He was the author of

two Telugu works Sriranga Mahatmya and Tulakaveri Mahatmya. He was a
patron of the arts of music, dance and drama. In addition to the evidence of
the Olugu, mentioned above, two inscriptions from Jambukesvaram, dated in
1722 and 1723, refer to the donor of a certain mantapa in the Saiva
temple there as Patakam Vaidyappayya, the son of Venkatesvarayya, an
instructor in the theatre-hall (natakasala-siksakam of Vijayaranga
instructor in the theatre-hall (natakasala-siksakam of Vijayaranga
Cokkanatha. The theatre, it is suggested, was attached to the royal palace
at Thiruchirapalli.87 (48 and 49 of 1937-38; pt.II, para 84) The two life-
size statues of ivory of the Nayak and his consort (Minaksi) kept in the
western promenade of the second enclosure of the temple are constant
reminders of the great devotion which he had for Ranganatha. This group
includes his adopted son, Vijayakumara and his wife. They appear to be
approaching the deity singing and dancing in great devotion. These were set
up probably by Vijayaranga Cokkanatha himself or his son.

One more instance of the struggle for power among the stalattar of
the temple is provided by the Olugu, which says that after S.1642
(A.D.1720) Vedavyasa Bhattar Raghunathcaryar collected together a large
number of people on the pretence of a religious gathering and “defied royal
authority by plundering the shops and closing the gates of the sample”. The
object evidently was to discredit Kumara Srinivasa Desikar, who was basking
in the limelight of royal favour. After a siege of two months one Irulappa
Nayak captured him and took him to the king. Vijayaranga ordered the
rebels to be blinded. The preceptor of the king, in a spirit of generosity,
interceded on behalf of Raghunathacaryar and saved him from the sentence.
He was, however, made over to the Tondaimahar, i.e., the Raja of
Puddukottah, where he remained a prisoner, for twelve years.88 (KO.,


Vijayaranga Cokkanatha left no son and was succeeded by his queen

Minaksi (1732-36). Bangaru Tirumala, the father of Vijayakumar, the
adopted son of the late king, claimed the throne on behalf of his son and
this started a civil war. Chanda Saheb, a son-in-law of Dost Ali, the Nawab
of Arcot, and who was ostensibly sent to collect tribute from Thiruchirapalli
and Tanjore took advantage of the civil war, pretented to espouse the cause
of Minaksi by taking an oath of friendship on the Guram and finally
imprisoned her in heir own palace in the fortress of Thiruchirapalli. Stung by
the indignities heaped upon her by Chanda’s men the unfortunate queen took
poison and died in 1736.89 (Sathyanathier, The Nayaks of Madura, pp.233-
34; IA XLVI pp.217-19 and 237-41)

According to an inscription dated in the cyclic year Ananda,

corresponding to 1735, on the beam of a four pillared mantapa of polished
stone in the western side of the first prakara (Rajamahendran enclosure) it
was erected by Minaksi, the pattamahisi of Vijayaranga Cokkanatha.90 (101
of 1938-39; pt.II, para 67; following the traditional order the Annual
of 1938-39; pt.II, para 67; following the traditional order the Annual
Report calls the prakara, where the inscription is found, the second


Copyright © 2005-2007, All rights reserved.

Events of Today

Chapter 10


Chanda Saheb’s exactions on the Srirangam temple: 1736-40:
After occupying the fortress of Thiruchirapalli and strengthening its
defences Canda Saheb turned against Bangaru Tirumala and his son
N Vijayakumara, who had taken refuge with the polegars of Sivaganga and
Ramnad. Alarmed at this Bangaru Tirumala fled to Tanjore, whose king
Sayaji, in his turn was being pressed by the men of Canda Saheb to pay
tribute to the Nawab. The co-sufferers, Bangaru Tirumala and Sayaji, sent
a joint application for help to the Mahrattas at Poona. The latter, under
the inspiration of Baji Rao I (1720-40), the enterprising Peswa who had
inaugurated a forward policy, promptly answered the appeal and sent a
sizeable expeditionary force under Raghuji Bhonsle and Fateh Singh. Dost
Ali, the Nawab of Arcot, who tried to intercept it, was defeated and killed
in the battle of Damalcheru pass (1740). The Mahrattas then laid a siege to
Tiruccirapalli. Canda Saheb shut himself up in the fort and help up bravely
for three months. The Mahrattas cut off all supply routes and defeated
relief forces from Madurai and Dindigul. When food and provisions were
exhausted Canda Saheb capitulated. The Mahrattas plundered the region
round Thiruchirapalli before they retired to Satara with Canda Saheb and
his followers taken captive. Murari Rao Ghorpade, at the head of 14,000
soldiers, was placed in command of Thiruchirapalli.

The Koil-Olugu says that during his three year’s rule Canda Saheb
tried to attack Srirangam in the year Raktaksi and pressed the stalattar of
the temple to pay tribute and that Parasara Bhattar, Vaduladesikar,
Uttamanambi and others joined together and paid to Canda Saheb one lakh
of rupees. Thus the temple was saved. This amount, it is said, was raised
with the help of some jewels of the temple and by levying taxes like kani
vari, manai vari and adtna vari in Uraiyur, The Olugu also refers to the
“Mahratta invasion and rule for the next three year’s i.e., from 1740 to
1743, and adds that neither during the occupation of Canda Saheb nor during
the Mahratta occupation did the Perumal quit the Bhupalarayan, i.e., the
seat of the procession images; in other words there was no occasion for the
deity being removed from the temple for purposes of security.1 (KO.,
pp.195-96. The cyclic years mentioned viz., Plavanga for Canda Sahib’s
pp.195-96. The cyclic years mentioned viz., Plavanga for Canda Sahib’s
capture of Thiruchirapalli and Raktaksi for his attempt to sack the
Srirangam temple are wrong for they correspond to 1729 and 1745
respectively) The Uttamanambi-vamsaprabhavam says that Korappatti
Murari Rao (Murari Rao Ghorpade) granted 57 villages as jagir to the
Srirangam temple, 14 to the Jambukesvaram temple and 9 to the temple of
Tayumanaswami on the rock of Thiruchirapalli, and that he appointed
Srirangacarya Uttamanambi as jagirdar of these 80 villages.2 (No.88 in the
Vamsaprabhavam) This was no fresh gift and was obviously in partial
confirmation of Cokkanatha Nayak’s grant.


The ambition of Canda Saheb led to a chain of events which engulfed

practically the whole of South India in a series of campaigns in which the
forces of the Nawab of Arcot, the Nizam of Hyderabad, the English and
the French at Madras and Pondicherry respectively, the Mahrattas and the
rulers of Tanjore and Mysore took part. The nerve centre of the warfare
throughout was the fort of Thiruchirapalli overlooking the neighbourhood
including Srirangam and under such circumstances the temple and the town
had their own quota of sufferings. The Olugu prefaces the portion dealing
with this period by saying “In Sake 1650 (a mistake for S.1658)
Karunatagam (i.e., the kingdom of the Carnatic meaning thereby the Nayak
kingdom) collapsed and many rulerships arose. The temple services and
festivities were frittered away and the temple was faced with many
difficulties.”3 (KO., p.195) The contending forces used the Srirangam
temple as a fortress camp as its high walls and power gateways offered
protection. The occupants were often tempted to raise money and provisions
by harassing the citizens and the temple authorities Devoid of any guard or
militia of its own the stalattar of the temple had to purchase peace
everytime at a heavy price. Occasionally luck favoured them and the
occupying force had to leave the temple in a huff without collecting money as
it was seriously threatened by its enemy elsewhere.

Nizam-ul-Mulk’s expedition: 1743

In 1743 Asaf Jah Nizam-vl-Mulk marched from Haiderabad to the

Carnatic with the definite intention of establishing his supremacy there.
Taking advantage of a succession dispute in Arcot he imposed his own
nominee, Anwaruddin, a general in his army, as the Nawab of Arcot. Murari
Rao Georpade surrendered the fort of Thiruchirapalli when he threatened to
lay siege to it and quitted the Carnatic. Thus the Nizam established easily
his control over both Arcot and Thiruchirapalli. Till his death in 1748 he
exercised unquestioned authority over the territories of Haiderabad and
Arcot. During this period the Srirangam temple, it appears, did not suffer
either from insecurity or from exactions. The Koil-Olugu says that when the
Nizam invaded the country with a great army all the stalattar met him in
Samayapuram with their birudas, honoured him with tirtam and prasadam and
befriended his officers. “Thenceforwards the Muhammadans spread their
sway everywhere. Nevertheless the Perumal did not quit the
Bhupalarayan.”4 (Ibid., pp.196-97)

The death of Asaf Jah in 1748 and the release of Canda Sahed from
the prison of the Mahrattas the same year led to succession disputes both
the Haiderabad and Arcot. As is well known to students of Indian History
Canda Saheb formed an alliance with Muzaffar Jang, a grandson of Asaf Jah
and a claimant to the throne of Haiderabad, the Dupleix, the French
governor of Pondicherry. After making preparations he advanced against
Anwaruddin. On 23 July 1749 the combined forces of the allies defeated
and killed Nawab Anwaruddin in the battle of Ambur. Muzaffar Jang easily
occupied Arcot but the fortress of Thiruchirapalli could not be captured as it
was stoutly defended by Muhammad Ali, the son of Anwaruddin. Mohammad
Ali declared his loyalty to Nazir Jang, the son and successor of Asaf Jah,
and appealed to the English at Madras for help, which was granted after
some hesitation.

Nazir Jang received letters from Muhammad Ali explaining the

activities of his rival Muzaffar Jang, in the Carnatic. With a large army,
which included Mahratta mercenaries under Murari Rao Ghorpade, he
marched to the Carnatic, won a victory over his enemies at Valudavur, near
Gingee, took Muzaffar Jang prisoner and occupied Arcot (April 1750). But in
the battle of Gingee, fought a few months later, he was defeated and
killed. The exultant Muzaffar Jang, who proceeded to Haiderabad
accompanied by the French general Bussy to invest himself with the office of
Nizam, was himself killed on the way by the Pathan Jagirdars of Kurnool and
Cuddapah. Acting on his own discretion Bussy proclaimed Salabat Jang, a
brother of Nazir Jang, Nizam.

The Siege of Thiruchirapalli

Successive occupation of Srirangam by the English and the French and

their evacaution 1751.

Canda Saheb was now free to settle issues with Muhammad Ali, who
had shut himself up in the fort of Thiruchirapalli and taken every precaution
to withstand a prolonged siege. With a sizable army, he left Arcot, subdued
all Jagirdars who still owed allegiance to Muhammad Ali and finally laid siege
to the impregnable rock fort of Thiruchirapalli. Muhammad Ali sent urgent
appeals for help to the English at Madras and Cuddalore and in February and
April 1751 contingents of European and Indian troops under captions Dalton
and Gingen and Liue tenant Clive took the field against the forces of Canda
Saheb and his French allies operating outside Tiruccirappali. They were
joined by the troops despatched by Muhammad Ali. Canda Saheb now led his
forces against these, but suffered a reverse at Vridhacalam. At
Valikandapurm, however, he won a victory. Here the infantry and cavalry of
Muhammad Ali took such a fright of Canda Saheb’s army that they struck a
precipitate retreat, which did not stop despite the efforts of the English
generals till they reached the walls of the Thiruchirapalli fort. The English
generals rallied together a part of the fleeing army and camped at Uttatur,
about 25 miles north of Thiruchirapalli. Before Canda Saheb reached the
same place, however, the generals, fearing that their enemy might try to
intercept the road between their camp and Thiruchirapalli, preferred to
retreat and quietly decamped from Uttatur. After a continuous march of 18
hours they reached Biksandarkoil on the northern bank of the Coleroon. Here
it was first proposed to make a stand, but later orders were issued to the
whole army to cross over the Coleroon to the island of Srirangam, with the
view that the seven walled shrine at Srirangam offered better means of
security than Biksandarkoil. The English troops and those of the Nawab
entered the Srirangam temple and were admitted by the priests with great
reluctance into the three outer enclosures, which provided more room than
was required, and with earnest solicitations imploring them not to carry the
stain of their pollution nearer the sanctum. Here they had no fear of their
communication with Thiruchirapalli being cut because the enemy if he made
any such attempt came under direct cannon fire from the rock fort.
Obsessed by a spirit of retreat as well as lack of confidence the army, ere
long, decided to quit Srirangam and take shelter behind the walls of
Thiruchirapalli justifying themselves at the same time by a suspicion that the
outer wall of the temple was in a state of dilapidation and by the though
that the extent of the shrine was too big to be defended.

No sooner the Nawab’s army evacuated Srirangam than the army of

Canda Saheb and the French, who followed them, occupied it. Koviladi, a mud
fort situated at the eastern extremity of the Srirangam island was not
abandoned by the Nawab’s troops during the retreat to Thiruchirapalli and it
was manned by a small contingent. Canda Saheb stormed this fort and drove
the defenders across the Kaveri, many of whom, even while they were
wading through it, were hotly pursued and killed. Against his expectations
Captain Gingen’s attempt to rescue them under cover of fire from
Thiruchirapalli proved futile. Encouraged by this action Canda Saheb, without
any more delay, crossed the Kaveri, leaving a small garrison in Srirangam,
and encamped with the rest of his army outside the eastern gate of

Canda Saheb now concentrated all his attention on the blockade, and
supplies to the beleaguered garrison became difficult. At the suggestion of
Muhammad Ali and with the approval of the English governor, Saunders, Clive
effected the celebrated diversion to Arcot (August 1751).5 (Tuzaki
Wulajahi by Burhan Ibn Hassan, translated and edited by Muhammad Hussain
Nainar, (University of Madras 1946), Vol.II, pp.87-90) His capture of
Arcot, however, did not materially affect the siege of Thiruchirapalli. The
French mounted two 18 pounders on a rock, which came to be known as the
French rock, about a mile south-east of Thiruchirapalli and also erected a
battery of two guns on the island of Srirangam. The guns on the French rock
and in Srirangam were too distant to make any impression on the defences of
the rock-fort, and they were utilised mainly to cut off communications with
the fort from the south and the north.

The French and Canda Saheb shut in Srirangam (March-June 1752)

Muhammad Ali was growing desperate with his revenues and supplies
running short. While his English ally and protector within the fort, Captain
Gingen, was prone to rest content with the policy of preserving his men
hoping that the enemy would soon fatigue his troops and exhaust his
ammunition. Taking the initiative for a second time he appealed to the king
of Mysore (Cikka Krisnaraja 1734-66) for help. The effect which this
appeal had clearly shows that the affairs of Thiruchirapalli were being
carefully watched by the neighbouring powers. A contingent of the Mysore
army under the command of Nandi Raja (Nanjaraja) immediately marched to
the relief of Thiruchirapalli. On the way it was joined by the Mahrattas
under Murari Rao, who had been waiting for a vourable opportunity to
recover Thiruchirapalli, after he had surrendered it to Asaf Jah in 1743.
The English were now prepared to send reinforcements and help Muhammad
Ali more effectively. Under cover of a continuous fire maintained by Captains
Cope and Dalton the Mysore army and the Mahrattas numbering 12,000
horse and 8,000 foot reached the fort on 6 February 1752. This junction
induced the Raja of Tanjore to contribute 3,000 horse and 2,000 foot
towards the relief of Thiruchirapalli. This force was commanded by Manaji.
Some of the polegars also sent reinforcements. Thus the army of Muhammad
Ali suddenly swelled to 20,000 cavalry and an equal number of foot-soldeirs
while that of Canda Saheb numbered 15,000 horse and 20,000 foot.6
(Robert Orme, Transactions of the British Nation in Indostan, Vol.1, p.208)
In the meanwhile an English reinforcement under Major Lawrence and Caption
Clive, consisting of 400 European troops and 1,100 Indian sepoys, with eight
field pieces, left Fort St.David for Thiruchirapalli. A French contingent
under Jacques Law proceeded, under the command of Dupleix, to intercept
the English force and a hotly contested battle was fought near the Golden
Rock, three miles south of Thiruchirapalli, in which both parties made full
use of their cannon. The French were defeated and the contingent sent by
Canda Saheb routed. Jacques Law was so much alarmed by this defeat that
he immediately decided to withdraw the entire force from Thiruchirapalli and
take refuge in the temples in the island of Srirangam. Canda Saheb
protested against his move but had to agree. Law quartered his troops in
the Jambukesvaram temple while those of Canda Saheb found shelter inside
the walls of the Srirangam temple.

Major Lawrence, who wanted to follow up his victory, conceived the

bold plan of attacking the enemy from the rear and with this intention he
sent a body of 300 Europeans, 700 sepoys and 3,000 Mahrattas with two
battering cannons and six field pieces under the command of Clive to the
north of the Coleroon on 6 April 1752. To conceal their march the army
took a circuitous route; it crossed the rivers, Kaveri and Coleroon, three
miles east of Jambukesvaram and reached Samayapuram (Kannanur) the next
day. The two temples in that village, i.e., those of Bhojisvara (Postesvara)
and Sellaji, were occupied and fortified. When Dupleix came to understand
the plight of his army, which was about to be hemmed in between the two
allied forces at Thiruchirapalli and Samayapuram, he sent 120 Europeans and
500 sepoys with four field pieces under D’Auteuil to reinforce the French
army on the island of Srirangam. Clive tried to intercept this force and
prevent the junction of D'A’teuil with Jacques Law in Srirangam but the
former cautiously withdrew. In the confusion of a night engagement in
Samayapuram Clive was actually captured by a body of Frenchmen
despatched by Law but his extraordinary pluck and presence of mind came to
his rescue and he escaped by speaking French and acting as a French
soldier.7 (For full details, Ibid., pp.222-25) In the morning the French
were overpowered and put to rout. The Mahrattas under Innis Khan, a
trusted general of Murari Rao, pursued them and out of the 700 soldiers in
flight, it is said, not one was left alive. D’Auteuil, who had withdrawn to
Uttatur, was defeated and put to flight by Dalton, who advanced north from
Thiruchirapalli. Clive too proceeded against another French post at
Biksandarkoil and stormed it. With this the main line of communication with
the beleaguered gerrison in Srirangam and Jambukesvaram was effectively
cut off. Writing in his dairy under date 30 May 1752 Ananda Ranga Pillai,
the well known dubash and courtier of Dupleix, states: “Today I heard the
following news. Of the troops at Srirangam with Canda Saheb, M.Law, etc.,
only 300 troopers have received any pay for the last six months; the rest
have had no money to live on and have suffered much by the enemy’s
blockade….. They intended to have destroyed the Srirangam temple just as
they destroyed the Jambukesvaram temple; but the temple people saved it
for the present by giving them 60,000 rupees and the grain stored there.
No one knows what will be done. They have paddy and rice for a month, but
cannot get salt or other provisions. The Cauvery and the Coleroon are full of
water ……..”7a (Diary of Ananda Ranga Pillai (ed. By Dodwell, published by
the Madras Government 1922, vol.VIII, p.103.) Destruction of the
Jambukesavan temple perhaps refers to its spoliation)

The Execution of Canda Saheb:

Realising that Canda Saheb and the French were effectively blockaded
in the island of Srirangam Manaji, the Tanjore general, made bold to cross
the river Kaveri and at once succeeded in wresting Koviladi from the French.
The soldiers of Canda Saheb lost heart and they began, one by one, to
desert their master. 2,000 of his best horses and 1,500 sepoys left
Srirangam and joined Clive at Samayapuram; some joined the Mysore army in
Thiruchirapalli and some others like the Marawas returned to their homes.
Only 2,000 horses and 3,000 foot remained with Canda Saheb in Srirangam;
among the foot, there was a body of 1,000 Rajaputs, who zealously
defended the inner shrines of the Srirangam temple against all intruders.
This helped the pujas and festive rituals to be performed as usual.

Jacques Law in Jambukesvaram was eagerly expecting the arrival of

relief forces under D’Auteuil. The latter was actually rehabilitating his army
at Valikandapuram when Clive with a company of 100 Europeans, 1,000
sepoys and 2,000 Mahrattas and six field pieces advanced against him.
D’Auteuil once again tried to withdraw but his men were hotly pursued by the
Mahrattas and forced to fight. They were defeated and many were
imprisoned. The rest were disarmed and disbanded (9 June 1752). When Law
heard of this disaster he knew that everything was lost. To him the
greatest burden was the person of Canda Saheb, who was promptly informed
of the urgency of taking steps to secure his own personal safety. Canda
Saheb was convinced that he could escape only with the connivance of one of
the enemy confederates. He chose the Tanjore general Manaji to confide in
because, according to Burhan Ibn Hasan, he planned to go to Pondicherry via
Karikal, the route of which lay through the territory of Tanjore.8 (Tuzaki
Walajahi, II, p.119-122) Law agreed with this proposal and opened secret
negotiation with Manaji. Some counsellors of Canda Saheb, however, strongly
protested declaring that no enemy was to be trusted and offered to conduct
their master to Karikal by secret passages. “But”, says Burhan Ibn Hasan,
“there was ready the retribution for the oath taken on the praiseworthy
and the holy quran, in the course of his dealings with the Rani of
Trichinopoly; the retaliation for the blood unjustly shed, of Nawab Sirajud-
Daula Anwarruddin Khan Bahadur, the Amir of the Carnatic and for the
murder of Nawab Nazir Jang Shahid, the wazir and the nazim of the
Deccan….” When he received the secret embassy on behalf of Canda Saheb,
Manaji though that it was a great opportunity for him to distinguish himself
among the confederates of Muhammad Alli and he promised to offer the
fugitive prince a safe and secret conduct though his territories. Ere long an
officer of the Tanjore army came to Canda Saheb with a palanquin and asked
him to proceed to Manaji’s quarters where an escort was reported to be
waiting for him. When the palanquin reached Manaji’s tent Canda Saheb was
put in fetters and made a secure prisoner. Manaji immediately crossed the
Kaveri to Tiruccirapalli with his prize and communicated the joyful tidings to
Muhammad Ali. The Nawab came out of the fort and honouraby received the
captor of his enemy and granted to him the jagir of Kaviladi. The news of
the capture of Canda Saheb very soon reached the Mysore and Mahratta
generals, each of whom hastended to Manaji and demanded the person of the
captive. Lawrence attempted to pacify the competitors and take Canda
Saheb under his own protection but did not succeed. Nandiraja and Murari
Rao arrayed their troops to obtain, even at the cost of war, the hapless
captive, whom they regard as the prize of all their labourers. These
preparations alarmed Manaji Rao, who thought it expedient to get rid of his
prisoner altogether. His Pathan executioner cut off his head, which was
immediately sent to Muhammad Ali, who says Orme, “for the first time saw
the face of his rival” (12 June). Later it was tied to the neck of a camel
and paraded five times round the walls of Thiruchirapalli, attended by
100,000 spectators, insulting it with obscence and indecent invectives.9
(Orme, Ibid., p.241)

In the meanwhile Law, having no alternative surrendered to the English

(12 June 1752). About 750 Frenchmen and 2,000 sepoys came out of the
Jambukesvaram temple and threw down their arms. Similarly Canda Saheb’s
Jambukesvaram temple and threw down their arms. Similarly Canda Saheb’s
troops evacuated Srirangam and were suffered to pass without molestation,
but the 1,000 Rajaputs, who were guarding the sanctity of the temple,
refused to quit and “threatened their victors to cut them to pieces if they
offered to enter within the third wall. The English in admiration of their
enthusiasm, promised to give them no occasion of offence.”10 (Ibid.)

The Occupation of the Srirangam temple by the Mysoreans and the French:
July, 1752-May 1758

The muder of Canda Saheb and the surrender of the French in

Srirangam did not terminate the siege of Thiruchirapalli, for hostilities, ere
long, broke out between the Nawab and the Mysore army. When Major
Lawrence was preparing to retire with his forces to fort St.David under the
thought that the conflict had ended, infact, when he had withdrawn as far
as Uttatur, it transpired that Muhammad Alid had, when he appealed to the
king of Mysore for help, promised to cede the fort of Thiruchirapalli to
Mysore in return for military assistance and the Nandiraja meant to get the
fort for himself. When the Nawab made this promise, which was so long
kept a secret, he had no possession other than Thiruchirapalli and now,
after four years, when he had triumphed over his enemies with the help of
the English, the Mahrattas, the Mysoreans and others the fortress was
made secure for him and nothing more. Nandiraja on the other hand, thought
that the Nawab was shortly going to inherit a large empire and refused to
withdraw his demand. Dupleix’s drooping spirits revived and he began to
encourage Nandiraja. The Nawab told Nandiraja that he would consider the
question of surrendering Thiruchirapalli to him only after he had established
his authority over his dominions outside the fort and particularly over the
province of Arcot; the Mysore general evinced great indignation at this and
threatened to take the fort by force. Ultimately it was agreed on both
sides to abide by the decision of Murari Rao, who offered to mediate.
According to the mediation a respite of two months was granted to
Muhammad Ali, during which he was expected to set right his own affairs
and at the end surrender the fort to Nandiraja. As an immediate palliative
the Nawab made over to the Mysore general the revenues of the island of
Srirangam and a few other places and empowered him to collect them
himself. After making these arrangements the Nawab set out on 28 June
1752 with Major Lawrence with a view to subjugate the Carnatic. Captain
Dalton, with 200 Europeans and 1,500 sepoys, was left to guard the fort
against any surprise attack by the Mysoreans or the Mahrattas, who had
camped partly to the west of Thiruchirapalli and partly in Srirangam.
Khairuddin Khan, the brother-in-law of the Nawab was appointed regent.
After the Nawab left Thiruchirapalli Nandiraja tried many a time to
take the fort by surprise, while scrupulously maintaining all outward forms of
friendship, with the help of 700 Mysoreans who had been admitted inside
the fort as friends but all the attempts failed thanks to the vigilance of
Dalton. The respite of two months came to a close. The Nawab had not
returned from his tour of Conquest, when Nandiraja demanded the surrender
of Thiruchirapalli. The regent refused the demand with contempt. The
Mysorean now gave up all pretence of friendship and openly made
preparations for an assault. Dupleix immediately sent a French force to his
help. The Nawab received news of these developments in his camp at
Tiruvadi (Tanjore district) and at once rushed to Thiruchirapalli.

Nandiraja knew that the capture of the rock-fort by open assault

from outside was next to impossibility. Hence he decided to withdraw to
Srirangam and wait for a favourable opportunity. In the meanwhile he was
joined by the French and the Mahrattas. Dalton decided to strike and on 23
December 1752 he left the fort and crossed over to Srirangam, where he
found the enemy strongly entrenched within the walls of the Ranganatha
temple. Considerable havoc was wrought among their advance guards, who
had pitched their tents outside the temple, but Dalton could not force his
way into the temple for want of a petard. The next day again Dalton made
a sally across the river and took his stand in a great catram opposite to the
southern gate of Srirangam. In the engagement that followed Dalton
suffered terribly and lost 50% of his soldiers. He struck a precipitate
retreat to the fortress and spent his range upon the 700 Mysoreans who
were still suffered to remain within the walls of Thiruchirapalli by turning
them out.

Nandiraja now detached one half of his army and sent them across the
river to Thiruchirapalli with express instructions to intercept all convoys of
provisions proceeding to the fortress-town. The Mysoreans cut off the noses
of the pedlars and other merchants who attempted to bring provisions into
the city. This was done so effectively that in a short time all the grain
shops in Thiruchirapalli were closed down and the granaries in the fort
became empty. On the receipt of an express message from Dalton Major
Lawrence arrived in Thiruchirapalli from Fort St.David on 6 May 1753 with a
large convoy of provisions. A single sally of Major Lawrence into Srirangam on
10 May convinced him that the enemy was strong. He quietly retreated to
the fort and began to concert measures to stock grains but his attempt
were far from successful.
Finally Nadiraja and the French numbering in all 450 Europeans, 1,500
sepoys and 8,000 Mysore and Mahratta horse decided to quit Srirangam and
cross over to Thiruchirapalli. Their policy was a block all transport of
provisions so effectively as to force and defenders of the fort to come out
and fight or surrender. With this view they occupied and garrisoned the
Golden Rock and the Sugar Loaf Rock, south of the Thiruchirapalli fort, and
began to harass the normal supply routes to effectively that Major
Lawrence, who knew that there was no time for deliberation, marched out
with 500 Europeans, 2,000 sepoys, and only a hundred of the Nawab’s
horse, who agreed to accompany him and in a pitched battle fought beneath
these rocks defeated the enemy and put them to rout. This victory gave the
much needed respite to the besieged city and a considerable amount of food
grains was brought into the fortress. This, however, did not solve the
problem as the blockade was taken up again with vigour and the civilian
inhabitants of the city, unable to get food and other provisions, began to
desert it in batches to live in other places.

The Nawab and Lawrence now turned their efforts to drive the enemy
from the neighbourhood of Thiruchirapalli back to Srirangam and for this
purpose obtained reinforcements from Fort St.David and Tanjore, whose king
was prepared to back the cause of Muhammad Ali. As Major Lawrence
advanced towards Thiruchirapalli with 170 Europeans and 300 sepoys from
St.David and 3,000 horse and 2,000 match-locks from Tanjore under the
command of Manaji. Nadiraja tried to intercept him, but was defeated again
at the Golden Rock (7 August 1753). The reinforcements entered the fort
with a convoy of provisions; In September was fought the decisive battle.
Major Lawrence led out his troops and attacked the enemy camp extending
from the Golden Rock to the Sugar Loaf Rock. The enemy suffered a total
defeat and retreated in great hurry to the island of Srirangam abandoning
much baggage and ammunition.

The plan of starving the fort into surrender by cutting off food
supplies had thus proved ineffective. On the night of 27 November about
600 Frenchmen crossed the river and made a daring attempt to take the
fort by escalade. Placing the scaling ladders against the walls of the western
gate, known as Dalton’s battery, they climbed up the battery without making
alarm and bayonetted the sleeping guards, but some of them inadvertently
fell into a deep pit left in the structures and their screams roused the
nearest defenders. The ladders were pushed down; the French who were
firing confusedly in the darkness were imprisoned. About a 100, who tried
the experiment of leaping down 18 feet, suffered terribly and some lost
their lives.

The undaunted Nandiraja once more attempted to seduce some

defenders but a series of conspiracies followed by straggling actions yielded
nothing. Under such circumstances Dupleix was recalled by the French
ministry in April 1754. His policy was totally reversed by his successor
Godeheu as the French and English ministries agreed to cease hostilities in
India. Nandiraja hated the English for their help to the Nawab, the promise
breaker, and declared that if the Nawab and his whole family would come
and throw themselves at his feet, beg for mercy, and own themselves
beggars he would be satisfied and withdraw. Exactly a year later he was
himself recalled by the Raja of Mysore to face the dangers that were
threatening the borders of his kingdom. The Mahrattas and the army of
Salabat Jang, accompanied by Bussy, were marching to his frontiers to
demand tribute, the former on their own account and the latter on behalf of
the Mughal. In obedience to this command Nandiraja quitted Srirangam on 14
April 1755 and marched towards Mysore leaving the island to the French.

Hostilities between the English and the French broke out in Europe in
1756 with the outbreak of the Seven Year’s war. Count de Lally, the French
plenipotentiary, who reached India in 1758, made Madras and Fort St.David
his objectives and did not pay any attention to Thiruchirapalli. That this fort
was not his objective is proved by the fact that while he recalled, as a rule,
one fourth of the French troops from all their outposts to assist him in his
campaigns he summoned the entire garrison of Srirangam to quit the temple
and join him at Cuddalore. The French accordingly quitted the temple on 17
May 1758.

The Koil Olugu refers to the occupation of Srirangam and the

harassment of its citizens by the Unal (Yavanas) of Puducceri (Pondicherry),
i.e., the French. “The inhabitants of both the banks (i.e., the northern
bank of the Kaveri and the southern bank of the coleroon) took refuge in the
temple and closed its gateways. The Unal however, entered the Citra street
and the Ultirai vidi (Uttara street), plundered the temple and were
contemplating to harass the whole population when Alagiyamanavala Perumal,
taking pity on the people brought the sense of sympathy towards the ancient
shrine and its helpless inhabitants in the mind of an aged Parangi i.e.,
European) and, through him, in the minds of others of his class, and thus
saved the temple. The men of Puducceri continued in Srirangam for two
years troubling the people, but in the third year suffered heavy losses and
fled”.11 (KO., p.197) The period of the three years of French occupation
mentioned by the Olugu, may be taken to refer to the period between March
1752, when Jacques Law and Canda Saheb occupied the temple, and April
1755 when Nandiraja evacuated it. Actually they stayed there for three
years more. The occupying forces converted the three outer enclosures into
a military camp barricading the gateways and mounting guns on the walls. The
chronicle, however, is not aware of the service rendered by the contingent
of 1,000 Rajaputs belonging to Canda Saheb’s army, who undertook upon
themselves the sacred duty of protecting the inner precincts. Ananda Ranga
Pillai furnishes some interesting details of the oppression practised by the
French on the inhabitants of Srirangam. Under date 23 June 1752 he notes
in his Diary: “They say that M.Law will be much blamed after (Jamadar)
Shaikh Hasan’s arrival; for his misconduct at Srirangam was indescribable.
God smote them because He could no longer bear their injustice to men and
women. Thus it was by their own evil deeds that the army was swallowed up
and they themselves fell into the enemy’s hands but none knows what further
punishment will befall them, All that I hear will fill a hundred pages…..”12
(Diary of Ananda Ranga Pillai, VIII, p.103. The alleged misconduct of Law,
at Srirangam may refer to his spoliation of Jambukesvaram temple)

After the withdrawal of Nandiraja, i.e., when the French were in sole
occupation of Srirangam, they appear to have harassed the citizens again
and indulged in gross misconduct. Under date 9 December 1755 Ananda
Ranga Pillai notes in his Diary. “The Srirangam Brahmanas report that they
have received letters saying that (the commandant) M.Flacourt sent 50
sepoys to the house of Achariar (whose name I do not know), and that these
men seized and beat him, stole some money and ravished the women, so that
all classes of Brahmanas and others - 10,000 persons in all - assembled
together, closed the temples of Srirangam and Jambukesvaram and mounted
on the gopurams whereon M.Flacourt fled.” 13 (Ibid., p.404) Again under
date 14 December he writes, “the Srirangam Brahmanas presented a
petition (to the governor M.Leyrit) that M.Flacourt at Srirangam had sent
guards to carry off women from Nadamuni Achariyar’s house. The governor
read this and gave it to M.Barthelemy, who also read it. I think they have
resolved to recall him.”14 (Ibid., pp.406-7)

Srirangam under the French again: November 1759 - February 1760

When the French evacuated the Srirangam temple in May 1758 it was
occupied by a contingent of the Mysore army under the brother of Haidar
Ali advancing from Dindigul. The occupation of the Mysoreans was short lived
for no sooner the French left Srirangam than the English at Thiruchirapalli
made the first serious attempt to occupy it. Captain Gaillaud appointed
Joseph Smith to repulse the Mysoreans from Srirangam. Smith took his
post in the Jambukesvaram temple and opened a bombardment upon
Srirangam from two martars. The challenge was not taken and the same
night the Mysoreans decamped leaving considerable military stores and
artillery and went back to Dindigul. The temple was occupied by the English
and garrisoned with 500 sepoys.

Srirangam once again passed under the French Crillon, a commander

under Lally, suddenly advanced against the shrine from Uttatur on 20
November 1759. At that moment the temple was manned only by 300
sepoys, 500 Kallans and a few Europeans. Crillon camped opposite the
western gateway of the temple, which was strongly fortified. This gateway
had been blocked by a partition wall, 20’ high, but this contained an opening
in the middle. Hence the English dug a trench and erected a parapet in front
of this opening and mounted on the latter a few field pieces; but the heavy
cannon of the French demolished the partition wall and disabled the field
pieces. Crillon’s troops forced their way in an mercilessly put to the sword
the defenders even after they had laid down their arms.15 (Orme, II,
p.541) The French occupation of outposts like Srirangam however, depended
mainly upon the fortunes of Lally. After his woeful defeat at Wandiwash in
January 1760 Lally withdrew to Pondicherry where he made his last stand
against the English. He summoned all his troops between Valikandapuram and
Thiruchirapalli to join him under the severest penalties of disobedience. The
French, 450 Europeans and 1,200 sepoys, withdrew from Srirangam on the
night of 6 February 1760. Under date 27 November 1759 Ananda Ranga
Pillai notes that M.Fumel (a mistake for Crillon) advanced from Uttatur and
captured Srirangam. “Our troops seized Srirangam and plundered two
streets; but the Bahmans, Bairagis and Dasaries in the temple closed the
gates and refused to open them, declaring that they would rather cast
themselves down from the walls and perish than open them. Two streets
were plundered and women were ravished. M.Lally ordered a present of 10
rupees(??) to be given to the Harakara, who brought the letter saying that
the troops, had reached Srirangam.”16 (Diary of Ananda Ranga Pillai XI,
pp.442-43) The Olugu’s reference noted above, of the Unal entering the
Citra and Uttara streets and plundering them, most probably refers to
Crillon’s assault. The protests of the people are not mentioned by the
chronicler, who, in his own way, talks of divine intervention.

The arangetral of the Ramanatakam of Arunacalakavirayar, 1772:

Arunacalakavirayar was a well-known Tamil poet of the 18th century.
He composed an open in Tamil dealing with the story of the Ramayana called
the Ramanatakam. This work is said to have received its imprimateur from
learned pandits in his 60th year in the same place where the Ramayana of
Kamban was approved by the academy of poets centuries ago, i.e., the
Kambar mantapam in the Srirangam temple. This tradition again shows, as
has often been adverted to above, that the life of the temple was not
seriously affected by the political and other disturbances of the age.

Occupation of the temple by Haider and Tippu: 1781 and 1790:

Haider Naik, originally an officer of tae Mysore army, gradually rose

to be faujdar of Dindigul. By 1759-60 he occupied the first rank in the
Mysore army. His usurpation of the throne was complete in 1761. After
consolidating his own position in the Mysore country Haider led two
expeditions into the Carnatic, in 1767 and 1780-82. But for a few sporadic
military actions in the districts of Salem and North Arcot nothing substantial
was achieved in the course of the first expedition. The later expedition was
a devastating military raid and the region between Pondicherry and Pulicat
was sacked. His main target was Madras. Nevertheless in 1781 he closely
invested the Thiruchirapalli fort and at a time when it seemed ready to
surrender, due to its unpreparedness to stand a siege, withdrew to the
north to meet the forces of Eyre Coote. The defeat at Porto Novo in July
1781 broke his power.

The Koil Olugu gives the correct date for Haider’s invasion. It says
that in S.1703 (A.D.1781), in Ani of Plavanga, (a mistake for Plava) Haider
marched with a lakh of soldiers, occupied Tondaimandalam and Colamandalam,
destroying the countryside, and surrounded Srirangam. An idea of the terror
struck by his approach is provided by the chronicle which says, “A crore of
inhabitants could nor contain themselves in the temple”. Haider is said to
have quartered his troops in the temple for six days at the end of which he
quitted it. A destruction of the temple was averted, it is said, through the
interventions of his Brahmana officers. Says the Olugu, “Alagiyamanavala
Perumal again intervened and acting as Samayyan, the letter bearer of
Haider, obtained a kavul or lease-deed from the latter, making over
Srirangam to himself, through the chief accountant of Haider, who was a
Srivaisnava, and thus saved the temple.”17 (KO., p.198)

After the death of Haider in 1782 Tippu, his son, assumed the
supreme command of the Mysore army. Having learnt a bitter lesson from
their own inactivity during the advance of Haider the English, under the
their own inactivity during the advance of Haider the English, under the
command of Lord Cornwallis, took the offensive against Tippu with a view to
forestall his operations in the Carnatic. Towards the end of 1790 Tippu, by
means of his dexterous and secret marches, by-passed General Meadows,
who had been commissioned to keep the Sultan within the borders of the
Mysore country, and descended into the Carnatic with a view to carry the
war to the heart of the English dominions. By rapid marches he came to
Thiruchirapalli, threatened to storm the fort several times, but actually did
not lay siege to it. He crossed over to Srirangam and put the countryside to
fire and sword. When Meadows learnt of Tippu’s descent into the Carnatic
through the Toppur pass he quickly turned towards the east and on his
approach Tippu decamped from Srirangam on 8 December 1790 and
retreated in a northern direction burning and pillaging along his route.18
(Hayavadana Roa, Mysore Gazetteer II, (iv) p.2589)

The Koil Olugu says that after S.1712 (A.D.1790), in the year
Sadarana, Tippu Saheb, of the most cruel temperament, invaded the
Carnatic with a huge army and spread desolation alround. He stationed
himself and his army in the temple for six days at the end of which he
abandoned it. He is also said to have demanded a lakh of gold pieces from
the Stalattar, viz., Srirangaraja Vaduladesikar, Rangacaryar and Bhattar
for the expenses of his army. This amount, we are told, was refused and
before Tippu could wreak his vengeance upon the temple, he had to flee it
for his own safety. But the Olugu says that when the amount was refused,
“Tippu became wild at which all the inhabitants though there was an end of
them. Again Alagiyamanavalan interfered and, as a result, Tippu was pacified
through laudatory addresses made by Srirangaraja Vaduladesikar.”19 (KO.,

The Olugu says that in the same year, Sadarana, i.e., 1790,
Cinnayya Mudali came to the store house of the temple to take paddy for
palace use. This obviously means for the use of Muhammad Ali’s household.
Srirangaraja Vaduladesikar and others, we are told, made huge protests at
the gateway of the storehouse and declared that they would sacrifice their
lives, at which the paddy was not taken, The Olugu adds that the Mudali did
many repairs to the walls and conducted an abhisheka for the god.20 (Ibid.)

The Assumption of direct control over the administration of the Carnatic by

the English (1801)

Muhammad Ali Walajah continued to rule as Nawab till 1795, in which

year he died. He late conflicts with his enemies had clearly revealed the
nominal character of his power. He owed his crown undoubtedly to the help
nominal character of his power. He owed his crown undoubtedly to the help
given to him by the English, who were rapidly destroying all resistance to
their military expansion. They were, however, loth to assume the
responsibility of government. They left it to the local chieftains, who were
no other than their own proteges. Their responsibility to the English ceased
with the payment of a part of their revenue as subsidy. This sort of
government, called the double government, marked the interval between the
down-fall of the native governments and the assumption of direct control
over the administration by the de facto power, viz., the English. That
interval was a period of maladministration and anarchy. Nawab Muhammad Ali
had borrowed large sums of anarchy. Nawab Muhammad Ali had borrowed
large sums of money from the English company at Madras and to pay off
these debts he borrowed indiscreetly from various private persons at rates
of interest as exhorbitant as 30 to 36%. Very soon the Nawab of Arcot’s
debts became a scandal and the creditors were granted assignments on the
revenues of his districts. Sometimes slices of territory were also mortgaged
to the creditors, who in their turn became petty Nawabs. Such proceedings
went on without check and revealed the effects of an anomalous double
government, which were felt even more pognantly, in the Carnatic than in
Bengal under the dual system of Clive.

The Madras government was the biggest of the creditors of Nawab

Wallajah. In December 1781 Lord Macartney, Governor of Madras,
concluded a treaty with the Nawab by which the latter assigned five-sixths
of the revenues of the Carnatic to the Madras government keeping one sixth
for himself. Mr.Sullivan, Resident at Tanjore, was appointed superintendent
of Assigned Revenues of ‘Trichinopoly’. Under his energetic supervison some
semblance of order was maintained in the Thiruchirapalli district for the time
being. This (Check 21 (KO., 199-201 Translations and Summaries of the
Mackenzie Mss: 17-6-10 (Tamil), Section 7) arrangement was cancelled by
the Board of Directors in England in 1785 and on this count Macartney
resigned. It was revived in 1787 and more definitely in 1792. In the latter
year Lord Cornwallis concluded a treaty with Nawab Wallajah providing for
assumption of control in periods of war. Anarchy in the land, however,
continued unabated because the Nawab’s financial position showed no signs of
improvement. Under such conditions Muhammad Ali died in 1795 and was
succeeded by his son Umtad-ul-Umra. Matters were brought to a crisis,
when some letters were discovered, subsequent to the storming of
Seringapatnam (1799), implicating both Muhammad Ali and his son in a
transonable correspondence with Tippu. In 1801 Umdat-ul-Umra died. By
this time, Wellesley, the governor-general, had decided to end double
government in the Carnatic. He caught this opportunity and on the very day
government in the Carnatic. He caught this opportunity and on the very day
of the death of the Nawab declared his intention to his successor, Ali
Husain, and asked whether he would accept a pension from the English
company and renounce all claims to rule his kingdom. On his refusing it Azim-
ud-Daula, a nephew of Umdat-ul-Umra, acquiesced in the terms offered by
the governor general. He was recognised as the Nawab. He signed an
agreement on 31 July 1801 by which he renounced all authority over the cil
and military government of the Carnatic and received a pension. In August
1801 John Wallace, an English Collector took charge of the district of


From the Uttamanambi-vamsaprabhavam we come to know, as

referred to already that out of the 96 villages granted by Cokkanatha to
the Srirangam temple Murari Rao Ghorpade recognised 80, 57 of which he
assigned to this temple, 14 to the Jambukesvaram temple and 9 to the
Tayumanaswamy temple. Anwaruddin Khan and his son Muhammad Ali
recognised this arrangement and made over these villages as inam, to
Srirangacarya Uttamanambi who was required to pay a nominal annual
peshkash of Rs.60,000. His son and successor was Srinivasacarya
Uttamanambi, but as he was a minor the 80 villages were constituted into a
separate Taluk known as the temple Taluk and entrusted to an amildar, who
was to administer those villages on behalf of the minor. But before the ward
attained majority the country passed from the control of the Nawab to that
of the English.

Dispute over tirta honours: The Nawab’s Decision in the case of Annangar
vs.Rangacari, 1796

Towards the close of the 18th century a quarrel between two

members of the same family (the family of Annan, i.e., the Kandadais) over
the tirta honours in the temple, which had been brewing for a long time,
broke out with violence and disturbed the peaceful life of the temple. The
Koil Olugu traces the origin of the dispute, while one of the manuscripts of
the Mackezie collection gives a copy of the order issued by Nawab Umdal-ul-
Umra in 1796 after hearing the parties to the dispute and some witnesses
who possessed a knowledge of its background. The dispute goes back to the
period of the Nayak queen. Mangammal (1691-1706), who patronized one
Srirangacarya Vaduladesikar, better known as Dorai Rangacaryar, who had
managed to usurp the position of the acarya of the ruler from his own
nephew (brother’s son). Sundararaja Vaduladesikar, from his own nephew
(brother’s son). Sundararaja Vaduladesikar, the lineal descendant of
(brother’s son). Sundararaja Vaduladesikar, the lineal descendant of
Mudaliyandan and a grandson of Srinivasa Desikar of the Olugu and Acarya
of Cokkanatha Nayak (1659-82). The quarrel now was between Annangar
Varadacaryar, in the line of Sundararaja Vaduladesikar, and Avadanacetti
Rangacaryar, in the line of Dorai Rangacaryar. Referring to the cyclic year
Pramadi (1793) the Olugu says, “The contemporary Annangar, who was
leading a bad life and who had stolen much of the temple property, was
dissatisfied with the honours of arulaypadu and tirtam done to him after
Peria Nambi as laid down by Manavala Mahamuni, and, impelled by his wealth,
desired to occupy the seat of Vaduladesikar i.e., Rangacarya). He tempted
the ruler to effect the transfer with an offering Rs.5,000 but the
Muhammadan king did not yield. Thus defeated in his purpose he began to
accuse Vaduladesikar, the Bandaris (i.e., treasures and storekeepers), the
Aryabhattal and others belonging to the Adina of Vaduladesikar of theft
from the temple of property worth Rs.30,000 and kept them in custody.
This created an uproar in the town.” The officers of Nawab Muhammad Ali
now interfered, arrested Annangar and his men and demanded a large sum of
money as tribute from the temple. Gopala Rayar, the Diwan of the Nawab,
it is said, restored peace in Srirangam and had the prisoners released after
obtaining on behalf of the Nawab a large ransom. After some time, however,
when Gopala Rayar was no more Diwan, Annangar is said to have obtained one
half of the Adina of Vaduladesikar by bribery and once again seized the
temple officials and kept them in custody and began to harass the
supporters of his enemy. For more than two years he was in power, and
“during that time Annangar once announced to the public that none should stir
out for a period of 5 nolis, during which time many lakhs of pons were stolen
from the temple…” After some time, we are told, Gopala Rayar was
restored to power and Vaduladesikar got back the rights and privileges of
his Adina in their entirety. After this event Muhammad Ali died (13 October
1975) and was succeeded by Umdat-ul-Umra who is called Nizam-ul-Mulk
Bahadur both in the Olugu and the Mackenzie manuscript referred to above.
On the appeal of Annangar the new Nawab separated one half of the Adina
of Vaduladesikar and assigned it to Annangar in Hijira 1211, i.e.,
A.D.1796.22 (The Koil Olugu says that Imamulk first separated one half of
the Adina of Vaduladesikar and gave it to Annangar and after more than two
years Nizamulk restored the whole of the Adina to Vaduladesikar in
Kalayukti (1798). Four months after this Nizam-ul-Mulk is said to have
restored to Annangar one half of the Adina. It is clear that the Olugu’s
account is confused. It is just possible that Imamulk and Nizamulk were two
princes of the family of the Nawab) With this decision Vaduladesikar was
dissatisfied, according to the Olugu, and he and Parasara Bhattar refrained
from going to the temple.

The copy of the Nawab’s decision is interesting and throws light on the
insistence on hereditary rights of precedence in receiving the holy tirtam in
the divine presence (tirta maryada) on the part of the Stalattar and the
Vaisnava Acaryas associated with the Srirangam temple. The question, in
other words, was sought to be decided on the basis of the duration of the
enjoyment of the right by the respective disputants. The witnesses deposed
that Rangacaryar enjoyed no tirta honours before the time of Vijayaranga
Cokkanatha Nayak, when tirtam was received in the order of Bhattar.
Jiyar, Perianambi and Annangar. The Nayak gave to Rangacaryar the right
to receive tirtam first along with Bhattar. This offended Annangar, who
resented his having to receive tirtam after the “new comer” (Rangacaryar).
It was stated that Rangacaryar enjoyed his rights only from the days of
the Nayak while Annangar had his tirta honours from the days of
Mudaliyandan. The Nawab declared that Rangacaryar’s contention was wrong,
but as he was receiving the maryada from the days of the Nayak he
decreed that the parties would receive tirta maryadas twice in a month
alternately. The order stated that they would enjoy rusumu (fees) and
mirasu (rights) equally, half in half. Without any quarrel they will enjoy their
shares in tirtam for ever and look after their own business.” If any one
acted against the order he forfeited his rights.

This arrangement lasted only for five years. “In Ani of Dunmati”
(1801), says the Olugu, “Nizamulk conducted a vigorous investigation with
the help of Arunachalam Pillai into the affairs of the shrine and found out
that Annangar had stolen 40 seers of gold and pealed the gold plates off
the tolukkiniyan, tiruvasi (parts of the divine vehicles) the bathing seat, etc.
Araikktalai Singam Pillaiyappan, Bhandari Rangappan and Sattada Arangan
gave out that they had themselves given him those articles. In the presence
of the Nawab Annangar confused the crime, on which he was fined 1,200
gold pagodas and exiled.”23 (KO., p.202) In Adi, i.e., the next month, the
English assumed the control of the temple and John Wallace, the Collector,
quashed the Nawab’s judgement of 1796 and gave to Vaduladesikar
Srirangacaryar the mamul i.e., the customary right, that was in vogue five
years earlier.24 (145 of 1938-39; pt.II, para 74)



When Azim-ud-Daula assigned the Carnatic to the English in return

for a pension in 1801, the temple-Taluk (i.e., the temple with its associate
for a pension in 1801, the temple-Taluk (i.e., the temple with its associate
shrines and its lands) passed under their immediate control. John Wallace,
the first Collector of the district, took in hand, among other things, the
question of the management of the Srirangam temple. He made detailed
investigations into the income and expenditure of the temple and
recommended to the Madras government the payment of an annual sum of
Rs.40,179 to the temple to meet the expenses of worship. The extra
income of the temple in the shape of votive offerings, etc., was to be built
into a repairs fund. He also fixed the scale of fees payable by holders of
important offices in the temple (which carried with them certain rights and
honours). A little later the government’s allowance was reduced by about
Rs.1,500 and in 1813 (Fasli 1222) was fixed at Rs.35,000 by one
Mr.Travers, the then collector of the district. Some of the offices came to
be auctioned and sold to the highest bidder but in 1828 this was given up in
favour of Mr.Wallace’s settlement, familiarly known as the tittam. This was
an indirect recognition of the time honoured hereditary principle. The
inhabitants of Srirangam made loud complaints about the insufficiency of the
annual allowance from the treasury but nothing was done to enhance it.

An inscription of Pachaiyappa Mudaliar dated 1842:

A Tamil inscription on a slab fixed near the Aryabhattal gateway and

dated in S.1764 (A.D.1842) registers an order of the Hindu Sabha of
Cennapattanam giving publicity to the benefaction of the well known South
India Philanthropist of the last century, Pachaiyappa Mudaliar of
Kanchipuram, for feeding Brahmana pilgrims in the Srirangam temple and for
engaging a tutor for teaching English to Hindu boys at Srirangam.24 (?? No
footnote) A similar inscription is also found at Jambukesvaram.25 (No
footnote ??) Both refer to a deposit of a lakh of varahas in the government
treasury by order of the Honourable Supreme Court, who appointed the
Hindu Sabha at Chennapatnam (Madras) to allocate the interest accruing
therefrom for different charitable purposes. By this order the Ranganatha
temple was allotted 240 varahas for feeding Brahmana pilgrims in the
temple, while the Jambukesvaram temple got 120 varahas for the
ardhajamakattalai (midnight offering) in the shrine of goddess Akhilandesvari
in the temple. The monthly salary payable to the teacher to teach English to
the boys of Srirangam was stated to be 5 varahas.

Thyagaraja’s visit to the Srirangam temple:

The best known composer of devotional songs in South India, who lived
in recent times, was Thyagaraja (1767-1847). In the later part of his life
he visited the most important temples of South India. According to pious
he visited the most important temples of South India. According to pious
tradition he could not go near the procession image of Ranganatha on the day
of the horse-vehicle in a certain brahmotsava. He was elbowed out on
account of the great crowd of people. Further he was not a Vaisnava and
hence could not command any influence even though he was already well known
as a great musical composer. Suddenly the procession stopped as the
bearers of the divine image could not move forward. People knew that this
was due to the wrath of the god. Special pujas were performed and lamps
were waved on the spot; raja dasis and Visnu dasis came and danced, all to
no purpose. The visit of the saint Thyagaraja and his fruitless attempts to
come near the images were soon known to all. The priests rushed to him and
implored him to come near and pray to the god to resume the procession. On
his appeal the bearers, it is said, were able to move forward. This incident
is echoed in his song commencing with the words Vinarada na manavi (won’t
you hear my appeal?). After this the Stalattar of the temple did him the
unique honour of having darsan of the god in the sanctum alone, when he is
said to have sung the piece O Rangasayi.


Copyright © 2005-2007, All rights reserved.

Events of Today

Chapter 11

A In the history of the Srirangam temple as in the case of
I most other temples three powers enjoyed, more or less in succession,
supreme authority, viz., the priests in charge of the pujas and festivals,
M the religious authority, i.e., the saints or acaryas who presided over the
N mutts, and the secular authority or the king and his officers. In other
U words the secular authority ultimately triumphed. The priests were
hereditary servants of the temple, who originally received their lands and
assignments from a king or chieftain, including the right of transfer, on a
permanent basis. They were not responsible to any officer of state. Their
duties were defined, regulated and supervised by the chief administrative
officer of the temple who, in Srirangam was called the Senapati-durantara,
himself an acarya or kovanavar. He exercised control not only over the
priests who performed pujas in the main and other shrines but the other
servants who had miscellaneous functions.

When Ramanuja succeeded Alavandar as the head of the Vaisnava

darsana and settled in Srirangam he assumed control over the administration
of the temple too and appointed Mudaliyandan, his own nephew and disciple,
as Senapati durantara. This was inevitable because the control over the
temple gave added dignity to the religious head, particularly to a person of
the eminence of Ramanuja. The temple was not only a place of worship but,
from his days the venue of religious and philosophical discourses. Before the
coming of Ramanuja or Udayavar the prabandas of the Alvars were being
recited in the temple and the puranas were being read and expounded by the
chief priest and these seldom attracted the intellectuals. With the coming
of the great teacher of visistadvaita many of his disciples were associated
with the administration of the temple. As a result it was not only elaborated
and systematised but purified and rendered meaningful.

Section I


The Koil Olugu describes at length the duties of each of the ten
groups of temple servants, supposed to have been fixed by Udayavar, well
known as the tittam or arrangement (of Udayavar), and also refers to the
changes to which they were subjected in due course. It is said that from
the days of Tirumangai Alvar the temple servants were divided into five
groups, viz., Kovanavar, Kodavar, Koduvaleduppar, Paduvar and Talaiyiduvar
and that these were expanded into ten groups.1 (KO., pp.46-48. In the
Arulappadu of later times this five fold division was corrupted as Kovanavar,
Kodavar, Koduppar, Eduppar, Paduvar and Talaiyiduvar) The word kovanavar
(kaupinar) obviously refers to the ascetics or the vaisnava Acaryas, who
from the days of Nathamuni had associated themselves, with the temple.
Kovanavar, as forming one distinct group, is not mentioned under the scheme
of Udayavar. Instead the word is used to refer to the family of
Mudaliyandan, the Kandadais, who had a hereditary claim to the office of
the Senapati durantara, from the days of Udayavar. Kodavar seems to be a
corruption of kudavar or pot-bearers.1a (Ibid., pp.56-57) Koduvaleduppar
means sword-bearers, Paduvar singers and Talaiyiduvar providers of leaves.
The Olugu does not describe this fivefold classification but merely mentions it
as a thing of the past. The functions of the ten groups or pattukkottu, as
fixed by Udayavar, are described below.

The temple chief and his deputies:

The chief superintendent of all the temple services was the

Senapatidurantara, i.e., the responsible chief of the temple servants. He
was also called the Srikaryam. He had complete control over all the temple
servants - brahmana and sudra - and the power to punish or reward as the
case may be. Since all places were hereditary he had no power of
appointment or dismissal. With meticulous details the Olugu describes his
functions. “He would bathe himself and proceed to the foot of the flag-staff
in the Aniyarangan courtyard and make his obeisance to it. While coming
round along the kulasekharan enclosure he would inspect the kitchen and look
into the containers, the usual provisions and (the items of) the cakes and
curries and other eatables appropriate to the occasion and assign the head-
cook and the ekangis to their respective duties. Then he would inspect the
condiments stores and inquire into the state of ghee and such other liquid
stuffs and assign the ekangis there to their appropriate duties ….. Near the
strong room adjoining the storehouse, in the Rajamahendran enclosure, he
would join the todavattituimaraiyor at the time of the prabanda recitations.
From the box of perfumery he would direct his servant, an ekangi, to take
sandal-paste, sandal, camphor, musk from Kashmir, collyrium, kasturi and
tiruman, medicated camphor, etc., and hand them over to those brahmins
(for puja purposes). He would also direct the ekangis to carry to the
Nacciyar shrine at the proper times sealed parcels of robes, vestments and
perfumery. Then entering the flower garden he would inspect the purple
water lily, the campak the jasmine, the white lotus and other varieties of
flowers agreeable to the divine frame and assign them to their respective
uses. Appointing the tirukkaragakkaiyar to their respective duties he would
proceed to offer worship at the feet of Senaimudaliar. With his permission
he would enter the Alagiyamanavalan tirumantapa and worship Jaya and
Vijaya. After this he would meet the Srivaisnava parivaras of the ten
groups, the ekangis, the sattadamudalis and the vettirapanis and the ten
groups of the sudra parijanas and ask them to do their respective duties
with vigilance. Then entering the sanctum he would arrange for commencing
the puja.1b (89 of 1938-39) In the afternoon he once again took up his job
of supervision and stayed in the temple upto the offering of milk and kasaya
or medicinal decoction to the Perumal in the night. “Thus after well looking
into the temple administration he would return home with his wife begging, at
the Aryabhattal gateway, to be excused for sins of commission and
omission.” On special festival days it was his duty to see that all the various
services were efficiently done under the supervision of the respective heads
of groups. For his services he was honoured in the divine presences with
tutam thrice, sandal paste, garlands and betel. Parivattam or silk cloth was
tied round his head as a special mark of honour and later untied. The
prasadams were taken and delivered to his house by the parijanas of the
Nacciyar shrine after the midday puja and offerings in the temple.

The Senapati-durantara was assisted by a few deputies. One was the

Perum-ulturai-adikari or the Superintendent of the Inner Organisation. He
was to supply without fail the personal requirements of the deity,
particularly the dishes or the prasadams at the proper times, e.g., rice,
boiled milk, ghee, spices, betel, etc. Another was the Head of the
Storehouse. He had to send to the kitchen specific quantities of rice and
other cereals, vegetables, tamarind, etc. He had to keep an account of the
umbrellas used in processions and the materials for the display of fireworks.
The Keeper of Miscellaneous stores was entrusted with the task of
maintaining the numerous flowergardens of the temple, keep the daily
requirements of flowers for puja in readiness and similarly the greens and
vegetables to be supplied to the kitchen. One of his duties was to prevent
theft or misuse of stores. A fourth was the Supervisor of Reconstruction
and Repairs to the temple. In addition to his main function of masonry work
he had to keep a routine check on the growth of parasitic plants on the
walls and gopuras and erect pandals, water sheds, etc., and decorate them
on festive occasions. The Superintendent of the Temple Lands was in charge
of the agricultural operations and despatch of grains, fruits, sugar cane,
cocoanuts, ginger, turmeric, etc., to the storehouse. He was also to supply
labourers from the villages for service during the festivals. There was also a
Supervisor of the cowshed. Each of these six superintendents was assisted
by one or two ekangis.

The first holder of the office of the administrative chief under the
Udayavar tittam was Mudaliyandan. For nearly two centuries the office was
exercised by the members of his family. After the Muslim invasions of 1311
and 1323 this family lost its control over the office as they seem to have
left Srirangam and did not return in time to claim the office when things
became normal. The Koil Olugu says, “Since the Muhammadan occupation the
office of the administrative chief is being exercised by diverse persons
known as Sriranga Narayana Jiyar, Bhattar, Uttamanambi, Cakrarayar,
Kandadai Ramanuja Aiyangar, Korattu Maniyam (Superintendent with his
station on the verandah), Elam Kelvi (Assistant Superintendent), etc.”2
(KO., p.65) Of these the first was an ascetic, who rose to importance in
the thirteenth century, founded a mutt and ultimately gained control over
some aspects of the administration of the temple.3 (Ibid., pp.114-125)
Parasara Bhattar, well known simply as Bhattar, was the son of Kurattalvan,
the best known disciple of Udayavar. He was a writer and was in charge of
the darsana or philosophy and had nothing to do with management. But his
successors enjoyed for brief periods, during the rule of the Rayas of
Vijayanagar, some honours due to the administrative chief. Thus the powers
and privileges of the office Senapatidurantara came to be divided between
Andan (of the family of Mudaliyandan), Bhattar (of the family of Parasara
Bhattar) and the Jiyar (of the matha of Sriranga Narayana Jiyar).
Uttamanambi and his brother Cakraraya rose to prominence during the
Vijayanagar period and were patronised by the Rayas, who looked upon them
as the representatives and wardens of the Srirangam temple and handed
over their gifts to them for administration. They enjoyed all secular
authority but had no claim to religious authority like the Jiyar or Bhattar.
Kandadai Ramanuja Aiyangar or Kandadai Ramanujadasa was a non-brahmin
(sattada) Srivaisnava, who became a disciple of Kandadai Annan and assumed
the dasyanama of Kandadai Ramanujadasa. He came to Srirangam in 1489
and was proatnised by the Raya of Vijayanagar. From inscriptions it does not
appear that he enjoyed any administrative authority over the temple. He
made a few gifts and provided for a Ramanuja kutam or choutry.4 (Ibid.,
pp.117-171) Korattu Maniyam and Elam Kelvi were perhaps officers dealing
with accounts.

The ten Brahmana groups of temple servants:

Udayavar laid down the duties of the following groups of Brahmana

(i) The Tiruppatiyar:

These were outsiders, i.e.; those not belonging to Srirangam but who
became the disciples of Udayavar and settled down there and were assigned
duties in the temple by the acarya. These were assistants to the arcakas
or priests and their main function was the lighting and maintenance of lamps
in the main and subsidiary shrines in the first three enclosures. They
brought flour and ghee from the storehouse, made suitable wick holders out
of the dough, placed the wicks in them and handed them over to the arcakas
during worship. Similarly they prepared other kinds of lamps like kumbalatti
or pot lamp and gave them to the arcakas. For the Tirukkartikai festival
they prepared thousand large wicks and brought lighted lamps from the
kitchen for worship. Besides attending to the lamps they had a few other
duties like announcing the arrival of the taligai or cooked rice offering,
screening the sanctum, heaping the rice over the cloth called pavadai and
holding torches during the divine meal. After the reconstruction of the
Dhanvantri shrine, referred to by inscriptions and the Olugu as the
Arogyasala in 1493 they took in procession every night milk and medicinal
decoction (kasaya) from the shrine to Garudavahana Pandita for being
offered to the Perumal.

The duties of the temple servants passed on from father to son and
were looked upon, in course of time, as rights and privileges. Some of these
were parted under various circumstances, e.g., “of the seven lamps which
they (the Tiruppatiyar) used to bring from the kitchen one was given to
Uttamanambi as gift and the rest was disposed off independently.”5 (Ibid.,
p.68) Often they were sold away.

(ii) The Tiruppani-saivar or the Kodavar:

The main function of this group of servants was the inspection of the
streets through which the deity was taken in procession during festivals.
They accompanied the row of Srivaisnava hymnists, (tiruvolakkam) during
such processions and on their behalf received the offerings made by the
devotees, viz., coins, fruits, etc. They also offered the hymnists tirtam and
prasadam. At the close of each festival they recited the Tiruppani-malai or
Padippu. For this reason, says the Koil Olugu they were called Tiruppani-
saivar.6 (Ibid., p.72) In the Vijayanagar period they parted with their
rights connected with the inspection of the streets. They were done the
honour of elephant ride as one of them had martyred himself in the boundary
dispute with the Saivas of Jambukesvaram.7 (Ibid., pp.139-140)

(iii) The Bhagavata Nambis:

Before the days of Udayavar, according to the Olugu, the Bhagavata

Nambis installed the flag on the flag staff during the ceremony of
dhvajarohanam, seated the images for a procession, offered the made of
office to the Srikaryam, ascended the dipastamba or the great lampstand
and offered diparadana to the god, during the Kartikai festival, read the
‘epistle to Nammalvar’ on the eve of the Tiruvaimoli festival and performed
other miscellaneous duties. Udayavar is said to have raised their status by
assigning to them some functions in the sanctum like offering incense during
puja, arranging the ornaments of the utsava-beras, holding a mirror before
the god at dawn during the ceremony of acamaniyam and when He is adorned
with kasturi and tiruman, receiving panakam or sweet drink and offering it to
the god, etc. They were generally to assist the Todavattittuimariyor in their
performance of puja in the sanctum. The aged and the wise among them
were expected to give instructions to pupils in the Paramesvara samhita. In
course of time, according the Olugu, they lost all their rights outside the
sanctum but “obtained the duty of holding the umbrealla (to the images in
procession) from the back of the elephant (vehicle) as a gift from the
Talaiyiduvar”.8 (Ibid., p.75)

(iv) The Todavatti-tuimaraiyor or Ullurar:

The first name means the pure (brahmins) wearing washed clothes and
learned in the vedas. The second means natives of the town. These were the
original Srivaisnava inhabitants of Srirangam with their duties mainly in the
sanctum and connected with the pujas. They opened doorway of the sanctum,
cleaned and kept ready the pancapatras and other vessels required for puja,
kept in their custody the washed clothes for decorating the images, offered
the amudu or the divine food (consisting of rice, etc.) mirror, jewels and
ornaments, kasturi and tiruman whenever they were required, restoring the
jewels carefully to the Sribhandara or treasury after use, honoured the
Srikaryam with parivattam, sandal paste and prasadam during festivals,
added scent to the water for abhisekam held during festivals, added scent
to the water for abhisekam held chaures and pearl-umbrellas when the
utsava heras were bathed, carried the Satakopan behind processions keeping
it on their chests and offering it to those who deserved it, performed some
duties when the deity was worshipped in mantapas outside the main shrine
during festivals, brought pancakavyam from the kitchen, and performed puja
on behalf of the Senapati durantara.

The Olugu says that after the Muslim invasions the Ullurar gave away
to the Bhagavata Nambis their duties of bearing the Satakopan behind
processions and attending to the pujas in the mantapas outside during

(v) The Vinnappam-saivar:

The Vinnappam-saivar or the Arayar were the musicians and

choristers of the temple. Early in the morning they played on the vina in the
mukhamantapa before the gates of the sanctum were opened, recited the
appropriate verses from the prabandas during the morning, noon and night
pujas and during tirumanjanam recited the prabandas, dramatising the divine
deeds mentioned therein, during the Tirumoli and Tiruvaimoli festivals (i.e.,
the Adyayanotsava) recited the Tiruppalli-elucci and the Tiruppavai every
day in the month of Margali, sang the swing song during the dolotsava and
the festivals of Sriramanavami and Srijayanti, and carried on the dialogue
between the god and the goddess on the occasion of pranaya kalaham in the
Panguni-uttiram festival. They began their recitals when arulappadu or the
divine commandent was issued to them. This mentioned their titles too. When
the recitations were closed they were honoured with parivattams. These
duties have continued more or less without break. The Arayars trace their
descent from the nephews of Nathamuni, who first began the recitations of
the prabandas under the guidance of the Acarya.9 (Ibid., pp.37-38)

(vi) The Tirukkaragakkaiyar:

The word means ‘holy water pot carriers’. It was their duty to fetch
water from the Kaveri in silver pots or kudams placed on the back of an
elephant, make a store of them and fill up the pancapatras and other
vessels in the sanctum with the sacred water for all pujas beginning with
that at dawn. They offered during the ceremony of washing the teeth of
the utsavabera at dawn and for washing its mouth whenever panakam and
betel were offered. They had a few duties connected with the supply of
garlands called the vellai and the vagaccal. They made a chain of tulasi
beads and offered it to the deity to be worn during the holy bath or
tirumanjanam. They also supplied the Andal or pins and Arulmari or knives
used in the decoration of the procession images and seating them on their
vehicles. According to the Olugu the duties connected with the tulasi beads
and the garlands were parted in favour of the Dasanambis and a few sudra
servants for monetary considerations after the Muslim invasions.
(vii) The Stanattar or Talaiyiduvar:10 (Talaiyiduvar means providers of
leaves. Its significance is not clear. This group is also called Stanattar and
seems to have enjoyed a high status)

These were the bearers of the procession images seated on the

mounts or in the capra or palanquin. They bore on their shoulders the long
poles to which the palanquin or the vehicle was tied. After the Muslim
occupation, according to the Olugu, they gave away their function of bearing
the images to sudra servants and kept to themselves the privilege of
directing the procession, i.e., “stationing themselves at the head of the
poles of the palanquin in order to secure evenness of motion”. They also had
the privilege of holding the umbrella from behind the back of the elephant
but this was given away to a Nambi by an agreement.11 (KO., p.83)

(viii) The Bhattal:

While the Arayar or the Vinnappam saivar recited the Tamil verses of
the Nalayirapprabandam, the Bhattal recited mainly the Sanskrit pieces,
selections, according to the Olugu, from “the itihasas, the Sriranga
Mahatmyam the Asvalayana sutra, the Bodhayana sutra the Mimamsa sutra,
the vyakarana, the Nalayira Prabandam, the Alavandar stotram, the
Sribhasyam, the Gitabhasyam, the Gadyatrayam, and the paneangam”.
These recitations were done by Periakoil Nambi before the coming of
Udayavar. After the latter assumed control of the temple the former gave
away his right of reading the puranas etc., as a gift to kurattalvan, a
disciple of Udayavar, who distributed the right among his disciples. The
vedas etc., were also included in the recitations besides the puranas.
“Subsequent to the puja and the recitation of a verse from the Muvayiram
by the Arayar and when arulappadu had been announced by the Ullurar, they
(the Bhattar)”, says the Olugu, “would wash their hands with the pure water
brought by the Tirukkaragakkaiyar in a huge cup. Then they would respect
fully receive the prasadam from their hands and then recite the following
one by one. Garudavahana Pandita would lead with the Rigveda, Periya Nambi
would recite the yajur and the sama vedas, the Tiruppani-saivar the
Atharvanaveda, the Bhagavata Nambis and Kurattalvan the Puranas,
Tiruvarangattamudanar, Govinda Perumal, Accan, Pillan, Ciriyalvan, Nadadur
Ammal and others from various sacred shrines along with their co-preceptors
would one by one recite the itihasas”, etc.12 (Ibid., pp.84-85) They recited
the purusa suktam during the tirumanjanam. On the Kaisika Dvadasi day they
read the Kaisikapurana. The vedas, etc., were, obviously, recited during the
Adyayanotsava and not daily. At the end of the prolonged recitations they
were honoured, like the Arayars, with tirtam, sandal paste, parivattam,
etc., and were taken to their homes in the Brahmarata13 (A raised plank
tied to poles and carried by bearers) accompanied by all the temple
servants. As the temple became pronouncedly Tenkalai in spirit the Sanskrit
recitations were discontinued gradually.

(ix) The Arya Bhattar:

These were the watchmen and guards of the temple. As their name
indicates they seem to have come from North India. The Koil Olugu says
that a certain chieftain of Gaudadesa (Bengal) came to Srirangam and
offered a huge treasure to the god, who was not pleased to accept it. The
chieftain is said to have appointed some brahmanas from the north to guard
the treasure and returned. Since these brahmanas pleased the god by their
single minded devotion and service, the latter not only accepted the treasure
but also honoured them with the service of the temple watch. The Olugu
gives the date Kali 3260 (A.D.159) for this incident, but almost all the Kali
dates given by the Olugu are fanciful and unreliable. Hence it is not possible
to say who this chieftain of Gaudadesa was. From inscriptions it is known
that pilgrims from the north used to visit south Indian temples in the
medieval period and make gifts.14 (ARE.1928-29, pt.II, para 36) The
earliest mention of Aryabhattal occurs in an epigraph of Srirangam dated in
39th year of Kulottunga I (1109). It registers sale of land by the temple
authorities to a certain Ariyan Vasudevan Bhattan alias Rajaraja
Brahmarayan of Anisthanam in Kasmira desam.14a (14 of 1936-37) This
refers to the visit to the temple of a Kasmir brahman and his receipt of
land, which indicates that he had settled in Srirangam and taken up some
service in the temple. Visits by North Indians to the temple might have
occurred even much earlier because, as testified to by Tirumangai Alvar, it
had become in his days, i.e., the 8th century, famous both in the north and
the south and attracted devotees from all sides. One such affluent pilgrim
might have been the chieftain of Gaudadesa, mentioned by the Olugu who
probably came not merely with treasure but with a set of brahmana servants
with the avowed intention of dedicating them to the temple. These were
accepted only after some hesitation. An inscription of Maravarman Sundara
Pandya I, dated 1225 in Srirangam, specifically mentions the Ariyar among
the various servants of the temple.14b (53 of 1892; SII IV.500) An
inscription of Jatavarman Sundara Pandya I dated 1261 mentions Vasal-
Ariyar.14c (89 of 1938-39)

The Aryabhattal kept watch from the southern and northern gateways
of the third enclosure, which are known after them, slept in the nights
between this pair of gateways and the next inner pair, opened these
gateways at dawn when the Tirukkarasakkaiyar came to take the water
pots, and kept watch carefully with torches in their hands” over “the
incoming and outgoing of articles throughout the day and night in the first
two enclosures and outside the gateway of the sanctum, with the store
house excepted”. According to the Olugu they were honoured with arulappadu
when the god, taken in procession, reached the third gateway. The divine
commandment referred to both the Aryabhattal and the lord of
Gaudadesa.15 (KO., pp.7, 86)

(ix) The Dasanambis:

These were the providers of flowers and flower garlands. They laid
out flower-gardens, made varieties of flower garlands and bunches called
vagaccal, killimalai, kiliccendu, tandaimalai, kottumalai, kudamalai, etc.,
decorated the palanquins with the flowers for processions, held the torches
in the divine presence near the doorway of the sanctum, and bore the
Sanaimudaliar and the Dasamurtis in procession during festivals. For these
services they were honoured with tirtam, prasadam, parivattam and a single

The Vettirapanis:

The above ten groups of brahmana servants are popularly associated

with the organisation of Udayavar, but there were others too. The Olugu
itself gives different lists.16 (Ibid., pp.48-50, p.90) The Vettirapanis or
mace-holders were the orderlies of the temple. With the aid of two gold
rods, two silver rods and two canes, which were also the symbols of their
office, they kept order in and near the sanctum during the starting of the
procession, went in advance and made way for it in the streets, kept watch
outside the tirumantapas whenever the Perumal was stationed there during
festivals, admitted the Srivaisnavas according to their qualifications to the
presence of the deity to receive tirtam, prasadams etc., made triumphal
shouts accompanied by clapping of hands when the procession started and
shouted ‘silence’ on the special occasions of the Tiruvandik-kappu and the
commencement of the prabanda recitations.

The Ekangis

The duties of drawing on the cloth screen during food offering or

nivedanam and drawing it off when it is over, keeping watch at the doorway
during puja, acting as the guard of the deity in the tirumantapa in the night,
fetching provisions like ghee, jaggery, cardamum, frankincense, camphor,
sandal paste and kumkum from the store house, etc., were done by the
Ekangis, who were brahmana bachelor servants (i.e., unencumbered by
families.17 (Now the term is applied to non-brahman servants with duties
outside the sanctum)


(i) The Vellalas:

The Koil Olugu refers to the Kalalappan and says that his duty was to
measure the grain in the granary with the marakkal and supply the required
quantity for daily use in the temple. Another Vellala by name Koil-katta
Perumal guarded the gateway of the Rajamahendran enclosure. The temple
accountant was also a Vellala and was called Vilupparaiyan. The term Vellala
commonly refers to cultivators and the Olugu obviously has not included the
cultivators of the temple lands in the villages, far and near, among the
temple servants. According to this chronicle Udayavar wanted to entrust the
accounts to a Brahmana but was pursuaded by the local dignitaries to let the
Vellala remain. However he created another post called Stala-samprati and
appointed a vellala, Vansatakopadasan, to it. The two officials came to be
known as Pallavan Vilupparaiyan and Pandyan Vansatakopadasan
respectively.18 (Pallavan and Pandyan are said to be names given by the
respective kings to perpetuate their memory in the temple) “Of these the
duties of Pallavan Vilupparaiyan were writing epistles to the Alvar, writing
down documents of the Senapati and carving inscriptions on stone. The duties
of Vansatakopadasan were writing the lease deeds and mortgage deeds and
taking copies of the documents of the Senapati and the stone inscriptions.
Both had equal jurisdictions with regard to the accounts of the store house
and the temple lands including the day-book.”19 (KO., p.91)

According to the chronicle the first office became extinct for want of
successor. The accountant appointed in his place was called
Sriranganarayanapiran. Both the offices carried a few honours and the Olugu
refers to quarrels over precedence.

(ii) The Saluvar:

The Koil Olugu next mentions the duties of the group of servants called
the Saluvar. They had miscellaneous functions like the ilanir kainkaryam or
offering the water of the tender cocoanuts to the god, setting up the
circular platform for the holy bath, adorning the horse vehicle of the god
during brahmotsavas and fanning the deity with camaras stationed on either
side of the vehicle, blowing the conch and the trumpets, offering clay for
sealing the locks of doorways, removing the used fuel from the kitchen and
bringing plantain leaves from the gardens. Later they acquired the function
of climbing up the Karttikai dipastambha and setting alight the dipa.

(iii) The Emberumanadiyar:

The Emberumanadiyar or the Devadasis (‘Female servants of God’)

were the dancing woman attached to the temple. The following were their
duties: dancing the sporting in front of the decorated elephant carrying the
sacred water to the temple from the Kaveri, performing the kinds of dances
like malaippu, kelikkai, ulamadal, ammanai, etc., during the tinuandikkappu
and the festive processions, enacting the appropriate episodes during the
Vasantotsava, enacting the rasakrida on the day of Krisnajayanti and on
special occasions, dancing in honour of each divine vehicle during the ritual of
bheritatanam in the brahmotsavas and performing the malaippu from behind
the Arayar. One of the Devadasis adorned herself after bath and stood in
the Alagiyamanavalan tirumantapa “well in sight of the god” during the early
morning service when the elephant, the cow, etc., were presented. They are
said to have captivated the Muslim generals when they had occupied the
temple and saved it from destruction. When any of them died her corpse
was, for this reason, cremated by fire brought from the temple kitchen.

(iv) Tiruvelakkarar:

These were entrusted with the functions of watch and ward. They
guarded the store house, the room containing the canopies, drums and
umbrellas, the hall of the divine vehicles (vahanasala) etc., brought the
grains, jaggery, and other provisions from the adjoining villages and deposited
them in the granary or the store house and waited along with the parijanas
when the procession started.

(v) The Kammalas:

The sculptors, masons and metal workers were grouped under the
artisan class called the Kammalas. The sculptor-mason called silpacari
attended to masonry repairs of the gopuras, decorated the kalasa on the
vimana, made images of stucco, carved out stone images and painted figures
on the walls of the mantapas etc. The goldsmith repaired the jewels and
ornaments of the deities, polished them frequently, made “the seven
ornaments appropriate to the seven days of the week,” attended to the
duties connected with the Jyestabhisekam and provided the divine vehicles
with a covering of gold plates. The copper smith and the bell-metal worker
made the plates and pots used in worship, cast lamp stands, bells and gongs
and provided artistically decorated coverings for steps, stairs and pedestals.
Casting of metal images was obviously an expert’s job and when a need arose
skilled professionals were employed for the purpose.

(vi) Needle workers, etc.:

The needle-workers or tailors, carpenters and silk-weavers formed

one group. The first stitched a few items of the divine dress like the kabai
or full frock and adorned them with pearls, prepared the ornamental and
embroidered borders and pieces of cloth required in the decoration of the
ceiling and stitched the canopy and the blankets. The second made the divine
umbrellas, the huge round fans, the birudas or badges of honour and parts
of the palanquins and decorated the dhwajastamba and the mantapas with
tinsel. The last made garlands of silk thread, bunches of loose silks and
tassels, all for the decoration of the vehicles of the god.

(vii) The Washermen:

These washed and dried the divine garments, offered the cloth called
the tiruppavadai for spreading the taligai or rice offering to the god and,
whenever necessary, dyed the clothes used in the decoration of the ceilings
of the mantapas.

(viii) The Potters:

As it was (and still is) the practice in the Srirangam temple to

prepare the prasadams in fresh earthern vessels daily the potters made a
daily supply of fresh cauldrons, vessels, etc., to the temple kitchen for the
preparation of the taligai and other prasadams. They carried the pots in
which a few kinds of cereals were sown for the ceremony of ankurarpanam
and prepared the earthen lamps for display during the Tirukkattikai festival.

(ix) The Boatmen:

As Srirangam is skirted by the twin rivers, the Kaveri and the

Coleroon, the service of the boatmen was necessary. When the rivers were
in floods they brought to the temple milk and other provisions from the
villages nearby. They served as rowers during the Teppotsavam or float
festival and supplied, like leaves, stems, mats, baskets and floats and also
fruits like oranges and lime, which were all grown on the river banks.

(x) The Musicians:

These were all instrumentalists like the pipers, the drummers, etc.
The nattuvar or dance-masters were also included in this group. The former,
said to belongs to the Alagiyamanavalan group, were “masters of the five
kinds of musical instruments”, and they played to the tune of the Arayar
during the ceremonies like the padiyerram and when dances were performed
by the temple dancers. On these occasions they also played individually the
five kinds of talam, “mattalam, suttalam, celli-mattalam, vagai and
avijam.”20 (Ibid., pp.99-100)

References to the temple services and organisation in inscriptions:

Inscriptions found on the walls of the temple mostly register the

donations made by different persons for specified purposes and hence they
cannot be expected to throw light either on the administrative organisation
of the temple or its authors; but there are indirect and hence valuable
references in them to some of the services said to have been organised by
Udayavar according to the traditional sources. They throw some fresh light
too on administration, e.g., the Mahasabha of assembly of Srirangam and
few of its committees are mentioned in an inscription of Kulottunga I, dated
in his 18th year (1088).21 (62 of 1892; SII, III, 70) This records the
provision of 6! kasu made by Arayan Garudavahan alias Kalingarayar for
offerings on three nights when the text Tettarundiral (the 2nd ‘ten’ of
Perumal Tirumoli by Alvar Kulasekhara) was recited. This epigraph is
important because it gives a few authentic details regarding the organisation
of the temple in the time of Ramanuja. By order of the manager of the
temple (Srikaryam saigira adikarigal Nisadarajar, the last word being the
proper name,)22 (Adhikari Nisadarajar is mentioned in other inscriptions of
Kulottunga I, viz. 123 and 124 of 1938-39) the arcakas or pujaris (kanmi)
entered into an agreement with the donor with regard to the administration
of the endowment. The pujaris (i.e., the temple priests), themselves
belonged to several groups. The following two are mentioned, (1) Srivaisnava
variyam or members of the committee of Srivaisnavas, to which belonged
Tiruvalndi-valanadu-dasar (valudi=Pandya), Vadamaduraippirandan Nambi,
Iraiyurali Nambi and Narayana Nambi of Markkamangalam, and (2)
Sribhandaravariyam of members of the committee of the treasury to which
belonged Kurugaikkavalan, Aravamudu, Tiruvaikkulam-udaiyan Sriraghavan and
Kesuvan Tani-ilanjingam. The last three are said to belong to the Harita
gotra. An accountant of the assembly and an accountant of the Srivaisnavas
gotra. An accountant of the assembly and an accountant of the Srivaisnavas
are also mentioned. The administration of the endowment was to be
supervised by the Mahasabha of Tiruvarangam. The grant provides for the
supply of cereals ghee etc., for 100 cakes to be offered to God Ranganatha
when He was hearing the recital of the Tettarundiral seated beneath the
sacred Punnai tree, on the night of that day on which the bathing water of
the idol was distributed among the devotees during the car festival in the
month of Aippasi and the festival in Panguni. As far as we know Ramanuja
was in Srirangam in 1088 and the absence of the mention in this inscription
of Udayavar or Mudaliyandan, who were so intimately connected with the
affairs of the temple according to literary tradition, is surprising. But
happily the names of Garudavahana and Tiruvaludivalanadar are preserved by
literary tradition and are associated with Udayavar as his disciples.

The inscription of Maravarman Sundara Pandya I, dated in his 9th

year (1225), was considered in detail, in chapter V above, and its
importance for the administrative history of the Srirangam temple pointed
out. This inscription clearly refers to the ‘ten persons’, i.e., the chiefs of
the ten groups of (Brahmana) temple servants and mentions five groups by
name, viz., the Bhagavata Nambis, the Sripadamtanguvar (or the Stanattar
Koil Olugu), the Vinnappamsaivar, the Aryabatta and the Bhattal-kottu. It
also refers to the Srivaisnava devotees of Emperumanar (Udayavar), among
those who took part in the deliberations, and to the Sribhandara or the
temple treasury. The king ordered a fresh choice of the temple officials
immediately by lot and then annually by election.

Section II


It was said at the outset that the secular authority ultimately

established its control over the affairs of the Srirangam temple.
Inscriptions show that the Pandyas of the Second Empire and the Rayas of
Vijayanagar interfered with and regulated its administrative affairs. Both
were donors of note and more than that resuscitators of the temple, the
one from the Oddas and the other from the Muslims. Appearing as saviours
and grand patrons they were naturally inclined to have their say in the
matter of the government of the temple. Maravarman Sundara Pandya I
ordered in 1225 that the heads of the ten groups of temple servants, who
had co-operated with the hostile Odda invaders and squandered the
property of the temple, both movable and immovable, besides collecting
Oddukasu, were to be dismissed from the temple services. To fill their
places fresh persons were to be chosen by lot. At the end of each year
places fresh persons were to be chosen by lot. At the end of each year
they were to be replaced by election.23 (53 of 1892, SII. IV, 500) From
the Cola inscriptions it is known that the members of the village councils or
sabhas were elected by lot and out of those so elected variyams or
committees were formed for specific purposes but, from what we know from
traditional and literary sources, temple services were hereditary and carried
with them certain rights and honours and nothing more. But here is a king
who not only dismisses the temple servants from their posts but orders their
replacement by elections to be repeated annually. The inscription adds that
the annual election was to apply also to the various committees of the
Srivaisnavas (Srivaisnava-variams). The Koil Olugu makes no reference to
such committees nor to the choice by lot or election. It refers to holders of
rights who parted with them by sale or gift. It is probable that the order
of the Pandya regarding the election of the temple servants was ignored in
due course and the offices once again became hereditary.

Collapse of the authority of the Kovanavar:

The prodigious gifts and endowments of Jatavarman Sundara Pandya I

have been described earlier. After making gifts of gold jewels, images,
vessels and platters, pedestal, throne, armour for the god, etc., all of gold,
the king was naturally concerned about their proper guard and maintenance.
Two records dated 1261, bear eloquent testimony to the anxiety of this king
with regard to porkaval or guard of the temple treasury.24 (84 and 89 of
1938-39; pt.II, para 28) One registers an order of the king that the
guard of the treasury was no longer to be the responsibility of the
Kovanavar or the Acayas belonging to the family of Mudaliyanda, i.e., the
Kandadais, to which the Senapati-durantara belonged, but the Ariyar, i.e.,
the Aryabhattal and the Ullurar were also to be associated with it. His
officer Vanadaraya was to enforce it. The next order, issued only a month
later, is said to have been proclaimed by the god at the request of the king.
This does not confine itself to the guard of the treasury but speaks of the
temple management as a whole and says that it was not to be a monopoly of
ten persons belonging to the Kovanavar Kottu or group. It was now to be
entrusted to a body of ten composed of two from the Kovanavar, two from
Srirangamaraiyar, i.e., the Srivaisnavas of Srirangam, learned in the Vedic
lore, one from the Todavattituimaraiyor or Ullurar, i.e., the arcakas, one
from Vasal-Ariyar, i.e., the Aryabhattal and two from Arattamukki-
Anakkur, i.e., officers and associates of the king. This Tamil name is very
expressive of the power and authority of those who acted in the name of
the king.25 (The word means one who threatens and puts dawn. Arattamukki
is used in periya Tirumadal (3.4.10) to mean petty chieftains [Tamil Lexicon]
is used in periya Tirumadal (3.4.10) to mean petty chieftains [Tamil Lexicon]

) While the Koil Olugu refers to the ten groups of temple servants it does
not speak of a managing committee of ten Kovanavar; instead it mentions the
Senapati-durantara, a Kovanavar, who was assisted by six superintendents.
From the inscription we come to know that about 1261 there was such a
committee, whose members belonged to one family and that the Pandya
diluted it with fresh elements, particularly his own officials. The introduction
of ex-officio members in the managing committee of the temple is a new
feature. This shows clearly that the faith which Udayavar placed in the
Senapti-durantara no longer obtained. This inscription is said to have been
engraved at the instance of Sriranganarayana Dasan, the manager of the
temple, and attested by Kannudaiyan Pallavan Vilupparaiyan, the temple

In the Vijayanagar period the royal control became tighter but it was
exercised indirectly. The Rayas of Vijayanagar restored the temple from the
Muslims and made large endowments both in cash and landed property but did
not attempt to associate their officers directly with the temple
management; instead they encouraged local men like Uttamanambi to wield
power over the temple. This was so because they were respecters of Hindu
tradition and the autonomy of the Hindu temples and mathas, but in as much
as they superseded the old office-bearers, whether heriditary or elected,
with men of their choice, the autonomy was, in effect, nominal.

Soon after the restoration the temple received plenty of landed

property. Gopana Udaiyar, it was said above, donated to the temple 52
villages at a cost of 17,000 gold pieces. Thus arose the problem of looking
after the temple lands scattered in different places. An undated record in
the Srirangam temple, assigned to the 14th century on palaeographic grounds
and purporting to be an order issued by god Ranganatha, directs a council of
23 members - 10 selected from out of the 10 groups of temple servants, 4
from the sanyasins (ascetics) and desantris (pilgrims), 5 representing the 18
mandalas (divisions of the country) and 4 representing the Cera, Cola,
Pandya kings and the Ksatriyas of the north (the four together standing,
perhaps, for rulers in general) - to appoint sanyasins versed in Vaisnava lore
and with the interests of the temple at heart, to look after the properties
of the temple situated at several places. Provision was to be made for their
maintenance and armed Velaikaras (servants) were to be placed at their
disposal to help them in the discharge of their duties.26 (51 of 1938-39;
pt.II, para 71) This inscription probably belongs to the period after the
restoration (1371) or to the years before 1323, for between 1323 and
1371 the temple had lost its all. The sanyasins, it was expected, would act
1371 the temple had lost its all. The sanyasins, it was expected, would act

not only disinterestedly but would command respect from among the people.
In their appointment the representatives of the kings had a voice. These
were obviously not royal officials but their nominees.

The Koil Olugu laments the collapse of the Udayavar code and the rise
of new men, who were mere householders without any pretension to learning
or spiritual attainments like Uttamanambi and Cakraraya, in the place of the
office of the Senapatidurantara, a Kovanavar, descending hereditarily in the
family of Mudaliyandan. The offices multiplied. Interferences in the
administration of the temple continued under the Nayaks, while the Nawabs
of Arcot seem to have exercised a judicious non-interference as a result of
which the heriditary principle became re-established. The offices of
Udayavar with specified functions had disappeared for ever.

Royal Intercession in Boundary Disputes:

Different from the control sought to be imposed upon the temple by

the king or his officials, directly or indirectly, was the royal intervention to
settle boundary disputes between the Srirangam temple and the neighbouring
Saiva temple of Jambukesvaram. Such intercession was welcomed by the
temple. Two such cases have been noticed earlier. One occurred in the reign
of Cola Kulottunga III. One of his records in the Srirangam temple gives
details of his order issued in his 20th year (1198) to his tax collecting
officers to settle the boundary between the lands belonging to the two
temples, which had been washed away on account of the erosion of the river
Kollidam. Disputes had been growing for nearly a year. The services of a
third party were necessary and the king’s mediation was sought or imposed.
In any case the arbitration of the officials was accepted, as it was
satisfactory to both the parties. The record says that the officials held
consultations with the representations of both the temples, representatives
of the sabha, accountants of the two villages and the superintendents or
wardens of the two temples. While adjudging the award they took into
account not only the holdings of the two temples before the erosion as known
from records by the actual enjoyment rights of both the parties as obtained
then and there and suggested suitable exchange of lands in some cases.27
(113 of 1938-39) Incidentally it may be noted that his record refers to the
tax collecting officers as puravu vari-kurusaivar, i.e., the officers who
collected taxes making a distinction or division (kuru) between tax-free
(puravu) and taxable (vari) lands.

The other boundary dispute arose, according to the Vaisnava chronicles

of Srirangam, over the practice of taking the image of Ranganatha in
of Srirangam, over the practice of taking the image of Ranganatha in
procession to the Jambutirtam in Jambukesvaram on the 8th day of
Panguniutiram festival. The Saivas objected to this and took the case to
Vijayanagar. The Vaisnavas of Srirangam too sent their representatives.
The Raya (Devaraya II, 1426-1446) sent a few arbitrators, the boundary
line was marked as described earlier and a wall erected in 1433.

Oppression by governors:

The governors or mandaladipatis of the Rayas of Vijayanagar were

sometimes oppressive and collected unauthorised taxes from the temple-lands
which were all tax-free. As a result of this oppression, says an inscription
of Devaraya II, dated, 1427, the cultivators of the devadana lands
belonging to the Saiva and Vaisnava temples in the Thiruchirapalli and the
neighbouring rajyas threw up their holdings and migrated elsewhere thus
jeopardising the conduct of worship. When the people began to make loud
complaints the Raya issued an order prohibiting the collection of taxes
excepting the customary vibhutikanikkai and sent two agents to the south to
enforce the order.28 (113 of 1936-37; pt.II, para 56) Koneriraja was
another governor who oppressed the Srirangam temple, in particular,
between the years 1488 and 1492. He not merely collected taxes from the
temple lands but imposed various levies on the Vaisnavas of Srirangam like
pattana-vari (municipal tax) and kudiyiruppu (house tax) and took away much
money and gold from the temple as kanikkai (tribute) and pattu and
parivattam (honours to the king). The self immolation of a few temple
servants and jiyas to protest against this oppression has been referred to
earlier in detail.

Section III


The temple did not collect levies from the worshippers. There is no
evidence in the inscriptions or the in the Olugu to show that any fee was
collected from any worshipper for darsan or for the performance of any
seva or a special mode of worship. All its income was derived from free gifts
of land, gold, cash and various articles in kind made by individuals, high and
low. The grants themselves often clearly laid down how the land or money
was to be utilised. The land and money gifted were detailed and registered in
inscriptions on the walls and pillars of the temple. The accountant of the
temple recorded the same in the Olugu or the diary of the temple in the
presence of witnesses.
There does not seem to have been any machinery for the enforcement
of the grant in letter and spirit. Grants of gold or money were formally
handed over to the sabha of Tiruvarangam, which also undertook formally to
fulfill the conditions of the grant. It is not clear what exactly was the
relationship between the sabha and the temple. The sabha or the local
council, which was responsible for the local administration of the township,
obviously must have exercised some control over the temple, which after all
was the heart of the township. As the temple was a large landowner, there
is no doubt that it was represented in a big way in the sabha. The
inscriptions often conclude with a few imprecatory verses, which promise
great merit as well as rewards for those who implicitly carried out the
purposes of the donation and at the same time remind the sinners who
misused the grant of the dire consequences of their act. The grant is often
placed under the protection of the Srivanisnavas (Sri Vaisnava raksai).

The chief items of expenditure of the temple were the daily

Performance of the pujas and the celebration of the occasional festivals,
most of which were covered by specific donations. Since circulating money
was not involved in a large scale in the case of incomes so was the case of
expenditure. The temple servants were not paid salaries in cash but they
had their share of the prasadam or cooked food and eatables, which were
first offered to the deity and then distributed among them and also, in
smaller quantities, among the worshippers. The priests and acaryas, the
latter noted for their learning and spiritual attainments, received gifts of
land or house-sites from pious donors.

Types of benefactions:

Here is given a peep into the variety of gifts known from inscriptions
excluding structures, i.e., shrines, walls, gopuras, etc., and images, both
stone and metal, for worship. Many inscriptions record gifts of money for
burning permanent lamps (nandavilakku) in the temple. Sometimes cows were
provided for the supply of ghee for burning lamps. Lands for rearing flower
gardens were often gifted to the temple. Gold coins kasu, gadyanas,
varahas, pons, etc.), were gifted for the institution of some sandi or service
i.e., worship along with offerings, on a particular day when the god was
taken in procession to a particular mantapa during a certain festival and so
on. The object of the gift was to commemmorate one self or his father or
son and in, one instance, his teacher.

Grants of villages were made, on a large scale, in the Vijayanagar and

Nayak periods. The villages were often purchased from private individuals
Nayak periods. The villages were often purchased from private individuals
and gifted to the temple. Gopana granted 52 villages at a cost of 17,000
gold pieces. Devaraya II gifted 11 villages on different occasions. Villages
were mostly given away to the temple with all rights (sarvamanya), when
they became the devadana or tiruvidaiyattam lands. Food grains harvested in
these lands were brought and stored in the eight gigantic granaries in the
third enclosure of temple. They were tax-free or irai-yili. Sometimes only
the income from taxes of a village or villages was gifted. In 1673
Cokkanadha Nayak of Madura made a gift of 50 villages and recognised the
40 and odd villages already in possession of the temple and issued a tamra-
sasana (copper plate grant) to Uttamanambi giving details of 96 villages as
the property of the temple. Villages or lands were gifted by royal officers
and private persons too as poliyuttu for purposes of acquiring merit of the
donor or his son or father to be utilised for the conduct of the daily worship
and offerings specified as cakes, curd-rice, sweet-rice etc. or for the
conduct of a special service, e.g., the provision of pulugu-kappu (civet
ointment) to the god every Friday. A village called Naruvuru was gifted in
1414. It was to be renamed Ranganathapura. Out of its income a daily
service to the god was to be instituted with the full round of offerings of
food, waving camphor lights, sandal paste, flower garlands, incense, etc., a
flower garden was to be maintained and garlands supplied, a catra for the
pilgrims was to be constructed and 12 brahmanas were to be fed daily
therein with rice, dal, four vegetable curries and butter-milk with betal
leaves and nuts, and eight brahmanas in Naruvuru were to be given each
some rent-free land. Lands were gifted sometimes for prabandic recitations,
e.g., to reward those who recited the Iyarpa. House-sites and lands were
gifted for the supply of alms (musti-madhukaram) and the sacred threads

The paraphernalia of worship often formed the subject of donations.

The benefactions of Jatavarman Sundara Pandya I have been dealt with
earlier. Among other objects given in the Vijayanagar and Nayak periods
were gold dishes and cups for offerings amudu to Ranganatha, gold kalasa or
pot for storing water for puja, gold lampstand, metal cuirass (breast and
back plates), kancuka or vestcoat inlaid with precious stones, pearl garment
(muttangi), a jewelled kirita or crown for the goddess, girta and karnapatra
(ear-ring) for the god, padakam or pendent, etc.

The kings occasionally performed tulabhara or tulapurusa ceremoniesi,

in which they weighed themselves against gold, cash and jewels and gifted
them away to the temple. The gold plates that covered the vimana and the
dhwajastambha were renewed now and then or repaired and relaid.
dhwajastambha were renewed now and then or repaired and relaid.

The temple chronicle and traditional accounts record the multifarious

gifts and services of Vijayavanga Cokkanatha Nayak and a few others like
Kandadai Ramanuja-dasa, which are not mentioned in inscriptions.

It is a fact that neither the granaries nor the temple, treasury had
any guard for protecting the grain or valuables against an armed attack by
enemies. The Aryabhattal and other watchmen, etc., were intended more to
prevent theft and misappropriation by the temple servants than to defend
the temple in a crisis. Any such threat was not expected and hence no
security measures were taken. As a result the temple lost all its property in
the course of the Muslim invasions of the first quarter of the 14th century.


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